Effects of treatment
Many children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) are now cured with current treatment. However, the prognosis depends on how well your child responds to treatment and some of the features of the leukaemic cells such as the chromosomes.
General side effects of chemotherapy
Bone marrow suppression (myelosuppression)
Chemotherapy drugs decrease the production of blood cells by the bone marrow for a variable period of time. This results in low levels of red blood cells (anaemia), white blood cells (neutropenia) and platelets (thrombocytopenia). Your child may need blood or platelet transfusions and will be at increased risk of infections. The doctors and nurses caring for your child will tell you more about these side effects.
Nausea and vomiting
Some of the chemotherapy drugs used may make your child feel sick or vomit. However, anti-sickness drugs can be given at the same time to stop nausea and vomiting.
Sore mouth (mucositis)
Some of the chemotherapy drugs make the lining of the mouth and throat very sore and ulcerated. Your doctor will give your child painkillers for this, and explain how to care for your child’s mouth during treatment.
Temporary hair loss is common.
A small number of children may develop long-term side effects related to the treatment. These include impaired heart function and a small increased risk of a second cancer in later life.
A few children are treated with cranial radiotherapy – this may result in problems with growth and puberty and reduced educational achievement.
Once treatment has finished your child will continue to be seen in the outpatient department where doctors will help treat any long-term effects.