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What is Leukemia?

Leukemia is cancer of the bone marrow and blood. It results from an uncontrolled build-up of blood cells. There are 4 types of leukemia, named for the cell type—myelogenous (also called myeloid) or lymphocytic (also called lymphoblastic)—and how quickly it grows. Chronic is mature cells that grow slowly. Acute refers to less developed cells that grow fast.

  • Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) - the most common type of leukemia in adults
  • Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) - the 2nd most common type of leukemia
  • Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) - the 3rd most common type of leukemia
  • Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) - the least common type of leukemia (primarily affecting children)

Treatments for Leukemia

Treating people with leukemia is very challenging. Because these are blood cells, leukemia cells are found throughout the body. Therefore, surgery alone cannot be used to treat this disease. Both blood and bone marrow tests allow doctors to diagnose leukemia.

Chemotherapy is the most effective method of leukemia cancer treatment. Various anticancer drugs are used, usually in combination. In general, treatment for AML uses higher doses of chemotherapy over a shorter period of time. Treatment for ALL involves lower doses of chemotherapy over a longer period of time.

CML is one of the great recent success stories in cancer therapy. Knowing the exact genetic change in CML allowed doctors to design a drug to combat it. This "leukemia pill," called Gleevec, has revolutionized CML treatment.

Advances in therapy for CLL also are based on more knowledge of the disease. Many patients with CLL do not require surgery, while others require fairly mild treatment. Unfortunately, a few still have more aggressive disease and need more therapy.


The goal of treatment is complete remission. Remission occurs when there is no evidence of the leukemia and the patient returns to good health with normal blood and marrow cells. Recurrence, or relapse, means the cancer cells have returned along with other leukemia symptoms and signs. For acute leukemia, a complete remission (no disease in the blood or marrow) that lasts 5 years after treatment often means cure. Currently, leukemia treatment centers have reported an increasing number of patients with leukemia who are in complete remission at least 5 years after diagnosis of their disease.

For more information about leukemia cancer treatment at Fox Chase Cancer Center or to make an appointment, call 1-888-FOX CHASE (1-888-369-2427).

Pediatric Patients

Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia specializes in treating adults diagnosed with leukemia. If you are looking for a cancer treatment center for a child, please visit the National Cancer Institute for a comprehensive listing of hospitals.

For more information about leukemia cancer treatment at Fox Chase Cancer Center or to make an appointment, call 1-888-FOX CHASE (1-888-369-2427).


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See National Cancer Institute information on
These external web sites may provide more information:

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Cancer diagnosis information for patients from the College of American Pathologists

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