Making the Decision to Have Radiation Therapy for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia 

Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. It is usually not part of the main treatment for people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), but it may be used in certain situations. For example, it may be used to ease symptoms, such as pain or pressure from enlarged organs. 

Your doctor may recommend radiation therapy for these reasons:

  • You need radiation to help manage symptoms. For example, you may have a swollen spleen pressing against another organ, such as your stomach. This can cause a lack of appetite. In this case, radiation can be used to reduce swelling. Also, radiation can help with bone pain caused by growth of leukemia cells in bone marrow.

  • You have decided to have a stem cell transplant. This is done rarely for CLL, but may be used in certain situations. Radiation therapy kills not only leukemia cells, but also normal bone marrow cells, which helps prevent the rejection of stem cell transplants. If you need to have a transplant, you may receive total body irradiation. This distributes radiation in equal doses to all parts of your body.