Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. It is more effective against solid tumors than blood cancers like leukemia, but it may be used in special circumstances.

If radiation therapy is used to treat leukemia, it is done with external beam radiation. In external beam radiation therapy, radiation is produced by a machine positioned outside the body. Short bursts of x-rays are directed at specific areas. The radiation oncologist will direct the radiation beam to affect as much cancer as possible.

Radiation therapy may be used in leukemia treatment to:

  • Eliminate unhealthy marrow before a bone marrow transplant
  • Relieve clogging in the spleen as an alternative to a splenectomy
  • Treat areas like the spinal cord, brain, or testicles to prevent spread of leukemia in these areas
  • To ease symptoms caused by congestion of leukemia cells in advanced stages