Chemotherapy for Childhood Leukemia

Chemotherapy: Your Child’s First Line of Defense

Chemotherapy is the main treatment for childhood leukemia. It is medicine that either kills cancer cells or stops their growth. Your child receives chemotherapy in one or more of these ways:

  • Orally, or by mouth
  • Intravenously (IV), or through a vein
  • Intramuscularly, or in a muscle

How often (cycle), how much (dosage) and which drugs we use depends on your child’s diagnosis. Some children may need high-dose chemotherapy with a stem cell transplant.

More Time at Home, Less Time in the Hospital

No matter their location, children who get chemotherapy with us benefit from the expertise of the entire Nemours Children’s team. Our leukemia treatment teams from the Delaware Valley/Greater Philadelphia and Northeast and Central Florida sites meet weekly to make chemotherapy for childhood leukemia safer. They also work on improving the patients’ experience and outcomes.

Research shows that kids do better the less time they spend in the hospital. You can expect:

Outpatient chemotherapy for leukemia

Most kids with ALL — the most common type of childhood leukemia — can do outpatient chemotherapy. With outpatient chemo, kids don’t have to stay in the hospital for treatment. Instead, they come into an infusion area and go home the same day. And some children can get pediatric chemotherapy at home using a portable infusion pump.

Lower risk of central line infection

A central line is a thin tube (catheter) that we use to give children IV chemotherapy. Ports are a type of central line that we surgically implant under the skin. Central lines make it easier to get medicines and draw blood, but they can get infected.

Our nurses are experienced in accessing and caring for ports. We have also conducted research focused on preventing and eliminating infections. This has led to lower infection rates in our patients.

Less time in the hospital

Our Home Hydration Program (at our Delaware Valley/Greater Philadelphia site) sends children home with infusion pumps that provide IV fluids. These fluids help prevent chemotherapy side effects that need hospital treatment.

Chemotherapy for Leukemia at Nemours: What Kids Can Expect

Your child receives chemotherapy under the watchful eyes of doctors and nurse practitioners certified and trained in hematology-oncology. This field of medicine specializes in cancer and blood disorders. Providers stay up-to-date on the latest chemotherapy improvements while building strong relationships with families. That way, they can customize your child’s experience better.

Children can get other procedures, such as blood transfusions, in the same location on the same day as their chemotherapy. Visits range from an hour to eight hours. Each site offers child- and teen-friendly things to do to pass the time:

Nemours Children’s Hospital, Delaware

Our new infusion area features spacious, comfortable patient rooms that have an area for family to relax, a private bathroom and TV. We also offer lots of fun Child Life programs and activities for toddlers through teens, including:

  • Arts and crafts
  • Child Life Clubhouse
  • Cooking activities
  • Pet Therapy program
  • Toys and non-electronic games
  • Video games

Infusion Center at Nemours Children’s Hospital, Florida

In our Orlando Infusion Center, private rooms have:

  • On-demand TV shows and movies
  • Recliner chairs or beds
  • TV with remote control
  • Video games

There is a teen room on our fifth floor with big screen TVs to play video games. Kids can also take part in other nonscreen-related activities, including drawing and playing in our playroom (for hematology/oncology patients only).

Volunteers and Child Life team members help your child enjoy whatever they’re in the mood for that day, including:

  • Art and music therapy
  • Reading
  • Drawing
  • Pet therapy visits
  • Playing music and music therapy
  • PedsAcademy (based on the Orange and Osceola County school curriculum), which offers technologies that promote student engagement and learning, including:
    • 3D printing
    • Augmented/virtual reality
    • Robotics

Infusion Center at Nemours Children’s Health, Jacksonville

Our Infusion Center has several oncology pharmacists who specialize in pediatric chemotherapy. They help tailor treatments to reduce pediatric chemotherapy side effects. We also have a variety of on-site activities for patients, including:

  • Tablets for schoolwork or entertainment
  • Large library of books for children and teens
  • Latest movies
  • Video games and gaming equipment
  • Noise-canceling headphones for teens

Find Leukemia Care From Nemours

We have many pediatric leukemia experts and locations — find the care closest to you:

Specialized Care for Pediatric Chemotherapy Side Effects

Chemotherapy drugs can affect both cancer cells and healthy cells. That’s why chemotherapy can lead to side effects including:

  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Nausea and vomiting

We help your family handle these pediatric chemotherapy side effects. We also design treatment plans, including chemotherapy regimens, to make treatments more comfortable. After diagnosis, we:

  • Teach you what to expect during treatment, including potential side effects
  • Send you home with medicines to make your child more comfortable, including nausea and pain medications
  • Give you a phone number to call 24/7 — whether it’s an emergency or you need to see if something’s “normal”

We also offer fertility preservation and the latest supportive treatments that improve care for kids. Through our nationally recognized clinical trial program, our patients are among the first to benefit from breakthroughs that improve symptoms and quality of life. Read more about our clinical trials for children with leukemia.