Treatment for blood cancer varies greatly from person to person. Your medical team may use any combination of chemotherapy, drug therapy, blood and marrow transplants, radiation, or new targeted therapies to treat or control your cancer.
Chemotherapy uses drugs that slow down, damage, or kill cancer cells. It may involve single drugs or combinations of drugs taken intravenously or by mouth. Chemotherapy is often taken in cycles lasting three or four weeks each. Your team may also prescribe drugs to reduce or eliminate chemotherapy’s side effects.
Radiation therapy (radiotherapy) uses X-rays and other types of medical radiation aimed at specific parts of the body. The radiation kills cancer cells, prevents cancer cells from developing or recurring, and improves many of cancer’s symptoms. For certain cancers, radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy and called chemo-radiotherapy.
Single drugs or combinations of drugs taken through intravenous injections or as prescribed tablets/capsules help fight the cancer itself or the side effects from chemotherapy. Drugs may be taken in repeating patterns (cycles) that usually last three to four weeks. Anti-cancer drugs or other substances that directly interfere with cancer growth and progression at the molecular level may be taken-with few side effects on their own or combined with standard chemotherapy. Many new targeted therapies, including vaccines and gene therapies, are currently in development.
Blood and marrow transplantation
Because intensive chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment can severely damage the bone marrow’s ability to produce cells, stem cell transplantation helps restore normal blood production.
Platelets are small cells that stick to the site of a blood vessel injury and seal it to stop bleeding. Apheresis is the process that removes platelets from a donor’s blood by a machine that then returns plasma and other cells to the donor. People experiencing lymphoma often need an infusion of donor platelets.
This class of drugs-including pamidronate and zoledronic acid-helps limit bone loss, bone thinning, and fractures, especially in people experiencing myeloma.