Because of the possibility of long-term side effects from treating children with radiation, only a small percentage of children with leukemia receive radiation. Some of the children for whom radiation is prescribed are:
• Children who have leukemia blasts in their central nervous system (CNS) at diagnosis.
• Children who are determined to be at extremely high risk of relapse in the central nervous system.
• Children who have relapsed in their central nervous system or testes.
• Children who require certain types of stem cell transplant.
Treatment for childhood leukemia is constantly evolving. Several ongoing clinical trials are evaluating alternative methods for CNS prophylaxis. Perhaps in the near future, no child with leukemia will need radiation. But for the present, although there are possible side effects, radiation to the brain provides children with certain types of high-risk leukemia or CNS leukemia the best chance to be cured.
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