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During and after treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), you’ll have tests. These tests are to check your blood and bone marrow for leukemia cells. This is to see how well treatment is working, or to look for signs that the leukemia might have come back.
Depending on how well treatment works, your ALL might be described with one of these terms:
In remission (complete remission). This means that there is no sign of the leukemia after treatment. Your blood counts have returned to normal. You have less than 5% immature cells (blasts) in your bone marrow. You have no signs or symptoms of leukemia anywhere in your body. Sometimes the term molecular complete remission is used. This means that leukemia cells cannot be found in the bone marrow even with very sensitive lab tests. Being in remission doesn’t necessarily mean you’re cured. A remission may be permanent, meaning the cancer is cured. But a remission may also be temporary.
Minimal residual disease. Your ALL appears to be in remission, but very sensitive lab tests are still able to find leukemia cells in the bone marrow. Your ALL may be more likely to come back (relapse). You may benefit from more treatment to try to kill the remaining cells.
Refractory ALL. The leukemia has not gone away and is not responding to treatment.
Relapsed (recurrent) ALL. Your leukemia has returned after a period of remission. Your blood counts may be abnormal again. You have at least 5% blasts in your bone marrow. Your doctor will discuss your treatment options to try to bring your leukemia back into remission.
Treating cancer is a process. You and your healthcare provider will work together to find the treatments that work best for you.
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