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Leukaemia is a cancer of the blood. Acute Leukaemia is a serious form of the disease.

This page gives you information about the treatment of Leukaemia.

Who we are

Specialists from different medical areas meet weekly to discuss patient treatment options. This multi-disciplinary team meeting (MDT) is central to the way we work. The MDT gives advice, support and creates individualised patient plans – so you get offered a treatment path that is right for you.

We're with you every step of the way

Specialist leukaemia nurses stay with you throughout your treatment journey, from your first clinic appointment to aftercare. They are there to help with problems and questions you – or your family – may have.

What we do

We diagnose and treat both types of acute leukaemia:

  • Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) and
  • Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL).

If you come to the hospital you can expect:

  • Experts working together to give you the best treatment
  • Access to cutting-edge treatments - Clinical trials are vital in the fight against leukaemia. Our trials programme makes the latest treatments available to patients – offering the best chance of beating the disease.
  • Regional centre of treatment - The hospital is the regional centre for bone marrow and stem cell transplantation – important for the treatment of some patients with acute leukaemia.
  • Research-driven care - As a university hospital, we lead research into leukaemia diagnosis, biology and treatment. We regularly publish research papers that help in the fight against blood cancers (65 in the past five years).
  • Acute Leukaemia diagnosis - Your doctor (GP) will send you to hospital for further investigation if you have leukaemia symptoms as below, and will also take a blood test to see how many white blood cells are present. Not enough or too many white blood cells may indicate acute leukaemia.:

Symptoms of Leukaemia

  • General weakness, feeling tired, high temperature, weight loss
  • Frequent infections
  • Bruising or bleeding easily
  • Blood in your urine or stools
  • Pain in the bones or joints
  • Breathlessness
  • A constant feeling of fullness or discomfort in the tummy (abdomen)
  • Headaches,
  • Seizures (fits), vomiting, blurred vision and dizziness.

Leukaemia clinic

At the Leukaemia clinic you will see a doctor who is an expert in treating blood conditions (haematologist). The haematologist might suggest the following test:

Bone marrow biopsy

A small sample of your bone marrow is examined under a microscope. The biopsy is usually carried out under a local anaesthetic (meaning you don’t go to sleep).

The haematologist numbs an area of skin at the back of your hip bone and removes the bone marrow sample with a needle. The procedure is quick – taking 15 minutes – and usually painless. You may have bruising for a few days after.

The sample is checked for the presence of leukaemia cells. If they are present, the biopsy will also determine which type of leukaemia is present: acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) or acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).

Being referred to us

We will see you within two weeks of getting the doctor’s referral.

What happens when you see us

Further tests

It’s important to know the progress and extent of the acute leukaemia if detected. A number of additional tests may be used:

  • Cytogenetic and molecular testing: This identifies the genetic makeup of the leukaemia cells. This can have an important impact on treatment. Certain genetic types respond better with special treatments.
  • Lymph node biopsy: Unusually, it can be helpful to carry out further biopsies of enlarged lymph nodes. This determines how far the leukaemia has spread.
  • CT scans: A computerised tomography (CT) scan may be used to check that your organs – such as your heart and lungs – are healthy.
  • Lumbar puncture: If there is a risk that the leukaemia has spread to your nervous system, a lumbar puncture may be carried out. This test uses a needle to extract a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid that surrounds and protects your spine) from your back. The fluid is then tested to see if the leukaemia has reached your nervous system.

Test results

Most of these results will be available and a treatment plan can be made and commenced within a couple of days. Some tests (cytogenetic and molecular testing) may take a little longer, but this is very unlikely to affect the first few weeks of treatment.

Treatment

There are lots of different treatments depending on you and the type, progress and extent of the acute leukaemia.

Facts

Clinical trials

You may be asked to take part in a clinical trial. Clinical trials help us learn more about the best way to treat specific conditions. You can find out more about clinical trials by visiting the Clinical Research Unit website here.