Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Leukaemia treatment

Treatment for leukaemia is usually provided by a team of different types of health professionals. The treatment given depends on your age and health, the type of leukaemia, how far it has progressed, how severe your symptoms are and the wishes of the family.

Most people with acute leukaemia need treatment straight away, while people with chronic leukaemia may not need treatment for years.

Treatments for acute leukaemia

There are a lot of new, effective treatments for leukaemia. The most common treatments given for acute leukaemia are:

  • chemotherapy - a combination of drugs that kill cancer cells, that can be injected intravenously, injected under the skin or taken as a pill
  • Targeted therapy - medicines that specifically attack cancer cells without harming normal cells, leading to fewer side effects than chemotherapy
  • radiotherapy - using radiation to kill cancer cells
  • stem cellor bone marrow transplant - putting healthy stem cells into the body after chemotherapy
  • retinoic acid - a form of vitamin A, usually given as tablets to treat a type of leukaemia called acute promyelocytic leukaemia.
  • Treatments for chronic leukaemia

Treatments for chronic leukaemia can include those for acute leukaemia, as well as:

  • monitoring the disease, and delaying treatment until it's needed
  • surgery to remove the spleen, if affected
  • biological therapy, such as interferon, a protein with anti-cancer effects
  • targeted therapy such as imatinib and dasatinib - drugs that affect cancer cells.

Side effects of treatment

Leukaemia treatments can cause unwanted side effects. For example, chemotherapy can cause nausea and vomiting, tiredness, hair loss, diarrhoea, constipation and a sore mouth. Interferon can cause flu-like symptoms and other effects like loss of appetite and muscle pain, while retinoic acid can cause headaches, dry skin, dry mouth and bone pain. Stem cell transplants can also cause unwanted effects, ranging from easy bruising and bleeding, to weakness and mouth infections.

Treatments can be given to reduce the impact of most of these side effects.

Palliative care

Palliative care aims to help control your symptoms and improve your quality of life. It does not mean that your medical team has given up on other treatments. Also known as supportive care, palliative care is sometimes given at the same time as you are receiving other treatments, such as chemotherapy, and in some case it may be offered right from the time of diagnosis.

Last reviewed: April 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 339 results

Leukaemia - Information, Treatment & Support - CanTeen

Leukaemia is a cancer of the white blood cells, which are made in the bone marrow. Learn more about causes, diagnosis and treatments with CanTeen.

Read more on CanTeen website

Leukaemia - myDr.com.au

Find out about leukaemia, including the different types, symptoms, causes and treatments.

Read more on myDr website

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia - Information & Support - CanTeen

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) is the most common type of leukaemia, but only develops gradually. Learn more about causes and treatments with CanTeen.

Read more on CanTeen website

Acute Myeloid Leukaemia - Information, Treatment & Support - CanTeen

Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) are conditions that develop in the myeloid cell line in the bone marrow. Learn more about causes and treatments with CanTeen.

Read more on CanTeen website

Leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma - NT.GOV.AU

Prevention, symptoms and treatment for leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

Read more on NT Health website

Acute myeloid leukaemia - Cancer Pathways

For more information about these leukaemias and where to go for support and help call the Leukaemia Foundation on 1800 620 420 or visit www.leukaemia.org.au.

Read more on Cancer Council Victoria website

Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia - Information & Support - CanTeen

Acute promyelocytic leukaemia is characterised by a switching of two chromosomes within the DNA. Learn more about causes and treatments with CanTeen.

Read more on CanTeen website

Leukaemia fact sheet | Cancer Australia

An overview of leukaemia including types, symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, treatment and finding support.

Read more on Cancer Australia website

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia - Information & Support - CanTeen

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) is a rare type of cancer of the white blood cells. Learn more about causes, diagnosis and treatments with CanTeen.

Read more on CanTeen website

Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia - Information & Support - CanTeen

Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) develops when damaged myeloid white blood cells grow out of control. Learn more about causes and treatments with CanTeen.

Read more on CanTeen website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback