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As is the case with other forms of leukemia, radiation therapy is not commonly used as a primary treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL); however, there are some instances in which it might be recommended. For instance, radiation therapy may be used to treat leukemia that has spread, shrink a tumor that is causing problems or reduce bone pain that is being triggered by the cancer. Additionally, radiation therapy is often done prior to a blood or marrow transplant, a procedure that can be used to treat blood cancers like leukemia.

What to expect when undergoing radiation therapy for acute lymphocytic leukemia

If your treatment team has recommended radiation therapy as part of your treatment plan for ALL, you can prepare by educating yourself on the process.

What type of radiation therapy is used for ALL?

External beam radiation therapy is the type of radiation treatment that is most often used for treating ALL. “External” refers to the fact that the radiation is delivered by a machine that is located outside the patient’s body. A “beam” of radiation is targeted at a particular part of the body to destroy the cancerous cells.

What does the treatment process involve?

You will first participate in a simulation, or planning session, which usually involves imaging tests. At this time, radiation oncologists will also take measurements to help them determine the angling of the radiation beams.

Radiation therapy is painless and is similar to the process of getting an X-ray. The treatment itself is quick, but getting into position can be more involved. You will need to stay completely still while the machine that delivers the radiation moves around you.

What are the side effects of radiation therapy?

Side effects vary from patient to patient and depending on what area of the body is being targeted. For instance, if the stomach area is being treated, side effects may include vomiting or diarrhea. Other side effects may include hair loss, fatigue and skin changes or irritation at the treatment site.

If you would like to learn more about radiation therapy for acute lymphocytic leukemia, or would like to meet with oncologists specializing in the treatment of this type of cancer, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.