There are various phases in the treatment of leukemia. These are:
During the induction phase, chemotherapy and medications are given. Sometimes radiation is included, too.
The idea is to kill the leukemia cells in the blood as well as their parent cells in the bone marrow.
The goal of the induction phase is remission. “Remission” means the leukemia cells are no longer being made. The Induction phase may last about a month and can be repeated if the goal is not reached.
Consolidation / Intensification
Treatment is continued even though leukemia cells may not be visible. Though the leukemia cells may not be seen in a blood test or bone marrow examination, it is still possible that the cells are present in the body.
The goal of this phase is to kill off any remaining cancer cells.
During the maintenance phase, less intense chemotherapy is given over a long time. This phase can last months to several years.
The goal of this phase is to prevent a relapse.
Regular visits to your child's doctor are required. This is to make sure the treatment is working and to check for any recurrent disease. These visits are also needed to take care of any side effects of the treatment.
Relapsed, Refractory or Recurrent Leukemia
Relapse is when the bone marrow begins to make cancer cells again. There is no way to predict this. It can happen at any phase of treatment. It may also occur months or years after treatment has ended.
The expected outcome and treatment options after relapse depend on several things. One is the length of time between the diagnosis and when the leukemia comes back. The expected outcome and next steps also depend on where the leukemia reappears. Sometimes it is just seen in the bone marrow. However, it may come back in other parts of the body as well.