Q. I'm worried my husband has some ongoing side effects from his treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Do you know if there are specialists who treat side effects from treatments?
Blood cancers are called hematopoietic cancers and treated by hematologists (doctors who specialize in blood disorders). Blood cancers consist of three types: leukemia, disease of the blood; lymphoma, disease of the lymphatic system; and multiple myeloma, disease of the bone marrow. There are numerous subtypes of all three blood cancers, especially among lymphomas and leukemias. The diagnosis is very important because it will directly impact the treatment options, and different treatments may result in different side effects.
ALL is a cancer of the white blood cells, the cells in the body that normally fight infection. Most cases of leukemia are associated with changes in genes and chromosomes in the cancerous white cells, which is the case for ALL.
Because many standard cancer treatments are very powerful, they also carry a risk of side effects; loss of hair, fatigue and nausea are the most common. Most side effects go away after treatment. However, some treatments can have ongoing and on occasion permanent side effects, which can include neuropathy, “chemobrain” and anemia, among others.
The professionals who make up his treatment team are the best people to address his side effects. His doctor might adjust treatment when side effects are dangerous or harmful. If side effects continue post-treatment, again his treatment team is the best source for help. Your husband may be prescribed medications to help manage side effects, or referred to a specialist who can monitor and treat side effects. Specialists include physical therapists, neurologists, psychiatrists, nutritionists or other specialized health care professionals.
Please take a look at our Connect Education Workshop podcasts that address the side effects of treatment. In addition, CancerCare also offers a number of publications that might be helpful in managing side effects.
Additional resources addressing ALL treatment and side effects include: – Leukemia and Lymphoma Society – National Cancer Institute’s Adult ALL Treatment Summary