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Leukemia rehabilitation


Leukemia is a type of cancer in which the body produces large numbers of abnormal (usually white) blood
cells. About 28,500 new cases of leukemia are diagnosed each year. There are several types of
leukemia, grouped as either acute (the diseases progresses rapidly) or chronic (the diseases progresses
slowly). The most common leukemias are:

Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), which comprises 90% of all leukemias in children (although it also
occurs in adults)

Acute myelocytic leukemia (AML), which mostly occurs in adults

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), which mostly strikes adults over age 55

Chronic myelocytic leukemia (CML), which mostly occurs in adults

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of leukemia include:



Abnormal paleness

Weight loss

Shortness of breath

Easy bruising


Repeated infections

Bone pain

Abdominal pain

Skin irritations or rashes

What Causes It?
Most causes of leukemia are not known. Several genetic and environmental factors are associated with
childhood leukemia. The disease has also been linked to exposure to large amounts of high energy
radiation (from nuclear bombs), occupational exposure to the chemical benzene, viral infections, and
chemicals from cigarettes.

Who Is Most At Risk?

Leukemia is linked to the following risk factors:

Males are at greater risk than females

Increasing age

Genetic diseases, such as Fanconi's anemia or Down syndrome

Acquired diseases, such as Hodgkin's disease

First degree relative with leukemia

Excessive exposure to ionizing radiation

Chemical exposure (benzene)

Certain drugs

Chromosomal abnormalities

Cigarette smoking

What to Expect at Your Doctor's Office

If you or your child has symptoms associated with leukemia, see your child's doctor. Your child's doctor
can make a diagnosis and help you determine which treatment or combination of therapies will work best.

Your child's doctor will do a physical examination, checking for swelling in the liver, the spleen, and the
lymph nodes, and will order certain laboratory tests. The bone marrow is examined for leukemia cells or
to determine the type of leukemia. A lumbar puncture ("spinal tap") checks for leukemia cells in the fluid
around the brain and spinal cord. Chest x-rays can reveal signs of the disease in the chest.

Treatment Options

Some leukemias can be prevented by avoiding exposure to benzene, nicotine, or radiation.

Treatment Plan
Leukemia is an extremely complex disease. Treatment depends on the type of leukemia, certain features
of the leukemic cells, the extent of the disease, and whether the leukemia has been treated before.
Whenever possible, a patient with leukemia should be treated at a medical center that specializes in the

Drug Therapies
Some of the drug therapies used to treat leukemia include the following:

Radiation therapy -- the use of high energy rays to kill cancer cells and prevent them from growing.

Chemotherapy -- the use of drugs to kill cancer cells.

Steroids -- to suppress muscle inflammation and reduce the activity of the immune system.

Bone marrow transplantation -- a procedure in which cancerous bone marrow is destroyed with high
doses of anticancer drugs or radiation, then replaced with healthy bone marrow.

Biological therapy -- stimulates or restores the immune system's ability to fight infection and disease.
May also help reduce side effects caused by other treatments.

Surgical and Other Procedures

Surgeries may include:

Lumbar puncture

Bone marrow transplant

Splenectomy (removal of the spleen)

Stem cell transplant

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

A comprehensive treatment plan for leukemia may include a range of complementary and alternative
therapies (CAM). Individuals should educate themselves and keep all medical providers fully informed
regarding any and all CAM therapies they are using, both prescribed drugs and dietary supplements.
While supplements and herbal therapies may be an important component of a comprehensive cancer
care program, some supplements and herbs may interfere with conventional cancer care, and new
research about these interactions is emerging every day. Work with a knowledgeable physician and
inform all of your health care providers about any herbs and supplements you are using or considering

Nutrition and Supplements

Following these nutritional tips may help reduce symptoms:

Try to eliminate potential food allergens, including dairy (milk, cheese, and butter), wheat (gluten),
corn, soy, preservatives, and food additives. Your health care provider may want to test for food

Eat antioxidant rich foods, including fruits (such as blueberries, cherries, and tomatoes) and
vegetables (such as kale, spinach, and bell peppers).

Avoid refined foods, such as white breads, pasta, and sugar.

Eat healthy protein favoring free-range, organic sources.

Use healthy oils in cooking, such as coconut oil. Be sure to cook olive oil under medium to low heat to
prevent carcinogens from forming.

Reduce or eliminate trans fatty acids found in commercially-baked goods, such as cookies, crackers,
cakes, French fries, onion rings, donuts, processed foods, and margarine.

Avoid coffee and other stimulants, alcohol, and tobacco.

Drink 6 to 8 glasses of filtered water daily.

Exercise lightly, if possible. Speak with your doctor about a regimen that is right for you.

You may address nutritional deficiencies with the following supplements:

Probiotic supplement (containing Lactobacillus acidophilus), 5 to 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units)
a day, for maintenance of gastrointestinal and immune health. Some probiotic supplements may need
refrigeration. Check the label carefully. Probiotics may not be appropriate for people who are severely
immune compromised. Speak with your doctor.
Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil, 1 to 2 capsules or 1 tbsp. of oil 1 to 2 times daily, to help reduce
inflammation. Fish oils may increase bleeding in sensitive individuals, such as those taking blood-
thinning mediations (including aspirin).

Although few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional
homeopaths may consider the following remedies for the treatment of gastritis symptoms (such as
nausea and vomiting) based on their knowledge and experience. Before prescribing a remedy,
homeopaths take into account your constitutional type -- your physical, emotional, and psychological
makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most
appropriate treatment for an individual.

Homeopathy may help reduce symptoms and strengthen overall constitution and may help lessen the
side effects of chemotherapy.

Radium bromatum is specific for radiation poisoning, especially followed by arthritic complaints. Acute
dose is 3 to 5 pellets of 12X to 30C every 1 to 4 hours until symptoms are relieved.

Acupuncture may alleviate symptoms. Acupuncture may help to enhance immune function, normalize
digestion, and address disease conditions. For many patients and physicians, acupuncture has become
one of the most widely used alternative interventions in cancer therapy support.

Prognosis/Possible Complications
Repeated infections complicate most cases of leukemia. Kidney failure or impaired function, and a
decreasing number of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell), are also common complications.
Treatments for leukemia can have serious side effects.

The prognosis for people with leukemia varies by the type of leukemia. ALL patients have the best
prognosis, with a 5-year survival rate of 80%.
Following Up
Patients with leukemia undergo extensive follow up care, including daily exams to check for infections
and bleeding, weekly bone marrow biopsies after chemotherapy has begun, post remission
chemotherapy, treatment for central nervous system conditions, and monitoring of urinary function.

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Version Info
Last reviewed on 5/26/2014