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Follow-Up Appointments Matter During Treatment for Leukemia

Many side effects of treatment are time-limited. They end once the treatment ends. But others may develop over time or be a sign of more serious damage from treatment. For instance, chemotherapy can damage organs, such as kidneys or lungs. Also, when leukemia cells break down during treatment, they release their contents into the bloodstream. This can cause what is called tumor lysis syndrome. It can also affect certain organs. If you have a stem cell transplant, the immune system cells from a donor attack the leukemia cells. They can also attack your normal cells, causing a variety of side effects. And, in rare cases, you may develop another type of cancer as a side effect of treatment.

For these reasons, it is important to tell your health care team about your symptoms and to keep your follow-up appointments. That way, your doctor can more closely monitor you and do everything possible to prevent these side effects or to reduce their impact. For instance, your doctor may prescribe drugs or extra fluids to flush broken-down leukemia cells from your body.

Here are a few things you can expect during follow-up visits. How often you need these visits will depend on whether you are receiving treatment, are in remission, or have relapsed:

  • Your doctor will give you a physical examination.

  • You’ll give a small sample of blood for your doctor to get blood counts to check the status of your leukemia.

  • You may need a bone marrow test.

  • Depending on your situation, you may need other tests as well.