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What happens during chemotherapy for leukemia?

Chemotherapy is an important part of treatment. Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs to destroy tumor cells in the body by impeding their growth and reproduction.

Chemotherapy for leukemia often consists of giving several drugs together in a set regimen. Because each medication destroys tumor cells in different ways, a combination of drugs may make the cells more vulnerable to treatment.

For patients with leukemia, chemotherapy is typically given:
  • Orally – by mouth (pill form)
  • Intravenously – injection into the vein*
  • Intrathecally – into the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord (see Intrathecal Chemotherapy)
*For many, doctors place a port (central venous access catheter) to deliver chemotherapy, give intravenous fluids and obtain blood samples. This helps to minimize the discomfort of multiple needle pricks.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.