There are different types of treatment for children with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML), transient myeloproliferative disorder (TMD), or myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS).
Different types of treatment are available for children with AML, CML, JMML, TMD, or MDS. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment.
Because cancer in children is rare, taking part in a clinical trial should be considered. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.
Children with AML, CML, JMML, TMD, or MDS should have their treatment planned by a team of health care providers who are experts in treating childhood leukemia and other diseases of the blood.
Treatment will be overseen by a pediatric oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating children with cancer. The pediatric oncologist works with other healthcare providers who are experts in treating children with leukemia and who specialize in certain areas of medicine. These may include the following specialists:
- Medical oncologist.
- Pediatric surgeon.
- Radiation oncologist.
- Pediatric nurse specialist.
- Social worker.
- Rehabilitation specialist.
Some cancer treatments cause side effects months or years after treatment has ended.
Regular follow-up exams are very important. Some cancer treatments cause side effects that continue or appear months or years after cancer treatment has ended. These are called late effects. Late effects of cancer treatment may include:
- Physical problems.
- Changes in mood, feelings, thinking, learning, or memory.
- Second cancers (new types of cancer).
Some late effects may be treated or controlled. It is important that parents of children who are treated for AML or other blood diseases talk with their doctors about the effects cancer treatment can have on their child. (See the PDQ summary on Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer for more information).
The treatment of childhood AML usually has two phases.
The treatment of childhood AML is done in phases:
- Induction therapy: This is the first phase of treatment. The goal is to kill the leukemia cells in the blood and bone marrow. This puts the leukemia into remission.
- Consolidation /intensification therapy: This is the second phase of treatment. It begins once the leukemia is in remission. The goal of postremission therapy is to kill any remaining leukemia cells that may not be active but could begin to regrow and cause a relapse.
Treatment called central nervous system (CNS) sanctuary therapy may be given during the induction phase of therapy. Because standard doses of chemotherapy may not reach leukemia cells in the CNS (brain and spinal cord), the cells are able to "find sanctuary" (hide) in the CNS. Intrathecal chemotherapy is able to reach leukemia cells in the CNS. It is given to kill the leukemia cells and keep the cancer from recurring (coming back). CNS sanctuary therapy is also called CNS prophylaxis.