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As one of the treatment options for leukemia, radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill leukemia cells. Radiation therapy can be directed at a certain part of the body where leukemia cells have collected; alternatively, the radiation therapy can also be directed to the whole body. When used to treat leukemia, radiation therapy may cause side effects such as fatigue and the development of red, dry, and tender skin in the treated area.

Leukemia Radiation Therapy: An Overview

Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) uses high-energy rays to kill leukemia cells. For most patients with leukemia, a large machine will direct radiation at the spleen, the brain, or other parts of the body where leukemia cells have collected. Some patients will receive radiation that is directed to the whole body. This is called total-body irradiation. Total-body irradiation usually is given before a bone marrow transplant. Patients may receive radiation therapy at a hospital or clinic.

Side Effects of Leukemia Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy may cause patients to become very tired as treatment continues. Although resting is important, doctors usually advise patients to try to stay as active as they can. Other side effects of radiation therapy may cause the skin to become red, dry, and tender in the treated area. If chemotherapy is given at the same time as radiation therapy, the side effects may become worse. Doctors can suggest ways to ease these problems.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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