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What to Expect After Chemotherapy for Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia

Because chemotherapy drugs are broken down by your liver and filtered by your kidneys, it’s important that you flush the drugs out of your system after treatment. Your health care provider may give you a saline IV (intravenous) solution to help flush your system, while you’re in the hospital. When you leave the hospital, you need to drink a lot of fluids. It is possible that you will need antibiotics to treat infections, or medicines or a blood transfusion to treat anemia or low blood platelet counts. These problems can be side effects of either the treatment or the leukemia itself. The severity of your side effects depends on the type and amount of drugs you take. Ask your doctor which side effects are most likely for you.

The side effects from chemotherapy usually lessen or go away when the treatment ends. Following are some of the more common, temporary side effects from chemotherapy.

  • Appetite loss

  • Blurred vision

  • Bruising easily or bleeding from low blood platelet counts

  • Fatigue from low, red blood cell counts

  • Hair loss. This usually begins about one week after your first chemotherapy treatment. Your hair will likely start to grow back about four to six weeks after your treatment ends.

  • Headaches

  • Infections from low white blood cell counts

  • Loss of sexual desire

  • Mouth sores

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Pain when swallowing. This should gradually get better as your white blood cell counts improve.

  • Diarrhea

Some side effects of chemotherapy may not go away after treatment. For example, some drugs may damage the heart or other organs. Doctors try to limit this damage by monitoring the doses of chemotherapy carefully. Certain drugs may also raise your risk of developing other types of blood cancer later on. This risk needs to be weighed against the benefits these drugs provide in treating your acute lymphocytic leukemia.

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