Hyundai Cancer Institute :: Leukemia FAQs
A cancer diagnosis typically comes with many questions and concerns. Below are some of the questions frequently asked by our leukemia patients and their families. Additional questions should be directed to the patient’s case coordinator or social worker.
What is leukemia?
Leukemia is a blood cancer in which there are too many white blood cells in the blood and bone marrow. There are several types of leukemia but they all have uncontrolled growth of white blood cells. There are four major subtypes of leukemia:
- Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
- Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)
- Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
What is bone marrow?
The bone marrow is a soft, spongy tissue found inside the bones. The bone marrow is responsible for the development and storage of most of the body's blood cells.
Is leukemia inherited or contagious?
Leukemia is not contagious. Most patients with leukemia have no family history of it. There is no evidence that leukemia can be passed on from person to person. Occasionally there might be a genetic predisposition to developing leukemia, but the susceptibility is unknown.
What should we tell our friends and family about the diagnosis?
It is most important that everyone know that it is not contagious. Leukemia is a cancer of the blood. Let friends and family know how important it is to make sure they are not sick or haven’t been around others who are sick before seeing the patient.
How is leukemia treated?
Therapy for leukemia consists of chemotherapy. Other treatments may include immunotherapy or certain biologic molecules which are still investigational.
How long will treatment of leukemia last?
Treatment usually last two-and-a-half years for girls and three years for boys.
Are there any short-term or long-term effects of leukemia?
The combination of chemotherapy and central nervous system radiation involved in the treatment can impact growth, development and neurologic function later in life, although these effects vary from patient to patient. Successfully treated children have gone on to have healthy children of their own as adults. After treatment, long-term follow-up may include:
- Laboratory tests and radiologic scans
- Echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart)
- Hearing tests
- Neuropsychological evaluations
How often will my child be visiting CHOC Children’s for appointments, tests, etc?
Once discharged from the initial hospital visit, patients require blood tests and doctor visits weekly. Once on maintenance chemotherapy the visits become much less frequent (about once per month).