Leukemia After Treatment Chronic Relapse

Chronic leukemia treatment aims for remission: the absence of detectable leukemia cells in the bone marrow and blood. Chronic leukemia relapse occurs when leukemic cells accumulate again, causing chronic leukemia relapse symptoms. A relapse of leukemia can occur months or even years after initial treatment and, with treatment, additional remission is possible.

Chronic Leukemia Relapse Symptoms

Treatment for leukemia relapse focuses, when possible, on remission. At the same time, treatment seeks to relieve leukemia relapse symptoms. Chronic leukemia symptoms are like initial symptoms of leukemia, and include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Infections
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swollen lymph nodes or spleen enlargement
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss.

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Relapse Treatment

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) relapse is curable only with a stem cell transplant. In spite of this, transplants are not always employed to treat CLL relapse. Both chemotherapy and antibody therapy provide excellent palliative care for CLL leukemia relapse symptoms.

The goal of relapsed chronic lymphocytic leukemia treatment is to prolong life for as long as possible while controlling symptoms. The University of Florida Shands Cancer Center reports that up to 80 percent of relapse treatments for CLL result in the patient surviving for another three to five years. Leukemia relapse treatment for CLL generally focuses on single medications, as single-agent treatment causes fewer side effects than combination therapy. Combination therapy is available for patients who are healthy enough to withstand treatment effects.

Stem cell or bone marrow transplants offer the greatest chance of long-term remission in cases of chronic lymphocytic leukemia relapse. Long-term data gathered by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center indicates that 50 percent of people receiving low-intensity stem cell transplants were alive five years after the transplant. Bone marrow transplants are complicated procedures with the potential for serious complications, however. Less invasive procedures may be more appropriate for a relapse of leukemia.

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Relapse

Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) relapse treatment is more aggressive than chronic lymphocytic leukemia relapse treatment, because advanced CML resembles acute forms of leukemia and progresses rapidly. Chemotherapy or a stem cell transplant may be used to treat CML leukemia relapse.

Leukemia relapse after a bone marrow transplant is always a possibility. Should this occur, the patient has several options. Relapse of leukemia may require palliative care to control symptoms. Additional bone marrow transplants may be attempted, or the patient may opt to try experimental CML treatments through clinical trials. The health and age of the patient is a factor in leukemia relapse treatment after a bone marrow transplant, as are the stage of the cancer and the genetic features of the leukemic cells.


Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. (2010). Chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Retrieved April 23, 2010, from http://www.leukemia-lymphoma.org/all_page?item_id=7059.

Mayo Clinic. (2008). Chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Retrieved April 23, 2010, from http://health.usnews.com/health-conditions/cancer/chronic-lymphocytic-leukemia/managing#1.

Merck Manuals Online Medical Library. (2008). Chronic leukemia. Retrieved April 26, 2010, from http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec11/ch142/ch142c.html.

National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). Relapsing myelogenous leukemia treatment (PDQ). Retrieved April 23, 2010, from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/CML/HealthProfessional/page8.

University of Florida Shands Cancer Center. (n.d.). Relapsed chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Retrieved April 23, 2010, from http://www.ufscc.ufl.edu/Patient/content.aspx?section=ufscc