Leukemia After Treatment

Follow-up treatment and regular doctors’ visits are essential to confirm that leukemia is still in remission and that the patient is no longer suffering ill effects from leukemia treatment.

Why Is Follow-up Leukemia Treatment Necessary?

During leukemia treatment follow-up patients may undergo a series of tests, including:

  • Blood tests
  • Bone marrow aspiration
  • Physical exams
  • Spinal taps
  • X-rays.

A heightened risk of infection is one of the most common effects of leukemia treatment, as the immune system has been weakened by treatment. While the immune system eventually recovers, patients are monitored carefully for signs of infection following leukemia treatment. People recovering from treatment of leukemia may need to avoid large crowds, sick people and areas with lots of germs.

Long-term follow-up of leukemia treatment is necessary to detect any sign of a relapse. Even with successful treatment, leukemia patients can relapse, and early detection of the disease’s return increases the chance of successful treatment.

A second cancer is a possible complication of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Secondary cancer may occur years after treatment for leukemia, so long-term follow-up is critical.

Chemotherapy Side Effects

Side effects of chemotherapy for the treatment of leukemia can include:

  • Changes in hearing
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Hair thinning or hair loss
  • Increased infections
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mouth sores
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Skin problems.

Most leukemia chemotherapy side effects clear up when treatment ends. Side effects of chemotherapy may occur for some time after chemotherapy ends, until the drugs leave the system and the body has a chance to recover. During this time adequate rest and a healthy diet help people recover from leukemia treatment.

Infertility may be a side effect in women who undergo chemotherapy. If you are concerned about the risk of infertility, talk to your doctor about fertility options.

Effects of Leukemia Stem Cell Transplants

The effects of leukemia stem cell transplant result in an extended recovery period. Blood cell counts and immune system function can take over a year to return to normal levels.

Physical recovery from stem cell leukemia treatment is only part of the recovery process. Many patients experience emotional difficulties while recovering from stem cell treatment. According to a 2004 report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), up to 22 percent of stem cell recipients experience clinical depression during the recovery period, with another 31 percent experiencing mild depressive symptoms.

The JAMA study suggests that full recovery from stem cell transplants may take anywhere from one to five years. A realistic timeline for leukemia treatment recovery may help patients avoid depressive symptoms and better plan for their recovery.

Resources

Bupa. (2009). Chemotherapy. Retrieved April 5, 2010, from http://hcd2.bupa.co.uk/fact_sheets/html/chemotherapy.html#3.

Cancer Compass. (n.d.). Leukemia: Recovery and follow up. Retrieved April 5, 2010, from http://www.cancercompass.com/leukemia-information/recovery-and-follow-up.htm.

Mayo Clinic. (2009). Chemotherapy: Risks. Retrieved April 5, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chemotherapy/MY00536/DSECTION=risks.

Medical News Today. (2004). Full recovery after cell transplantation for treating leukemia or lymphoma can take 3-5 years. Retrieved April 5, 2010, from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/8441.php.

MedicineNet. (2009). Exercise may help in leukemia recovery. Retrieved April 5, 2010, from http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=104697.