The main method of treating acute leukemia is chemotherapy along with supportive care, states Merck & Co. Supportive care includes antifungal drugs, psychological care, blood transfusions, antibiotics and hydration. Full remission is a realistic possibility with these cancers, but because of their aggressive nature, life expectancy without treatment is only between three and six months.
Acute leukemia is a condition where cells in the bone marrow become cancerous and rapidly grow to replace the healthy cells that produce red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, Merck & Co. explains. This means that the body rapidly loses the ability to produce these cells, and develops anemia, a weakened immune system and difficulty forming clots to stop bleeding. In addition, these cancerous cells easily enter the bloodstream and travel to different parts of the body.
The different parts of supportive care each help take care of one of these problems while chemotherapy destroys the cancer cells, says Merck & Co. Antibiotics and antifungal drugs help prevent infections while the immune system is suppressed. Hydration and medications to decrease the acidity of urine are important to prevent harmful effects of compounds that are released as cancer cells are destroyed. Transfusions of various types of blood cells help make up for the loss of production that acute leukemia causes.