Treatment for ALL patients is individualized and will not be the same for every patient.
Survival chances are highly individualized based on the progression of the disease, type and subtype of leukemia, the involvement of other organs such as the lymph nodes, spleen and liver, the treatment, age, cell counts, will to fight, and so many other factors. Once the patient is diagnosed he or she most likely started treatment within 48 hours. The treatment for ALL and AML is similar except for ALL treatment has an extra set of chemotherapy added onto the end.
First, the patient will go through remission induction chemotherapy. This typically lasts 5-7 days and is usually on a 21 or 28 day rotation. It is 5-7 days of an intense round of chemotherapy in order to try to put the leukemia into remission - meaning that it appears that there is no disease left in the CBC after the round. The patient may have 1-3 rounds of this. My son had a secondary AML leukemia that was most likely caused by the chemo he received as an infant for a Wilms' Tumour, nephroblastoma. His induction chemo failed twice but thankfully the third time he was put into remission.
After this, the patient will most likely continue on the 21 or 28 day schedule (depending on the drugs he is receiving) but the next set of chemo will be what is called consolidation chemo. It will be either fewer drugs, weaker drugs, or both. The purpose of this is to "clean up" the remains of cancerous cells left in the body after induction chemo. He or she will probably have 3-7 rounds of this.
For ALL (not AML) the patient will also receive maintenance chemotherapy after the consolidation chemo. From my understanding, since we won't go through this for E, this is typically done outpatient and goes on for up to 2 years but it is done for as long as the patient can tolerate it. It does, as the name suggests, maintains the remission and keeps the cell cycle in check.
All through the treatment the patient will probably be feeling nauseous (my son takes Zofran to battle the nausea and vomiting), and will have a lot of bone pain due to the chemo drugs attacking the cancerous bone marrow (motrin helps E when he isn't receiving heavy pain killers such as hydrocodone), and he's often tired. He gets worn out much easier than he does normally. He will probably be receiving steroids which will rev him up, make him hungry and feel sick at the same time, or do what it does to my son and make him feel like his heart is about to jump out of his chest. He has lost his hair due to the chemo but it doesn't seem to bother him much. He's 3 years old but he knows there's something missing from his head and whenever he has stickers he'll stick them all over his head to be funny or he'll draw all over it with a marker. He spends a lot of time in the hospital so we try to have things for him to do like watching movies and colouring books, big legos, and things that are fun for him to pass time with.
It's important to remember that a leukemia diagnosis is absolutely not a death sentence. It's treatable but you have to keep in mind that it does take lives. I know many children and adults that have gone on to live completely normal lives after getting their No Evidence of Disease (NED) status. Sometimes a patient does relapse but it is absolutely possible that a patient can reach remission and eventually NED status. There isn't a "cure" but it's generally accepted that after 5 years post treatment the leukemia is considered "cured."
I hope this answers your question, I think I've about run out of room here.
If you have any more questions, feel free to email me ([email protected]
) or send me an IM (crazycanuckj).