The information on this page was extracted fcrom the Leukaemia Foundation website and a 'Chemotherapy Frequently Asked Questions' print out recieved from the South Eastern Sydney Illawarra Health Service, Sydney Childrens Hospital, Pharmacy Department. For more information visit  

What is Leukaemia? 

Leukaemias are cancers that affect the blood and bone marrow. All leukaemias start in the bone marrow where developing blood cells, usually developing white cells, undergo a malignant change. They multiply in an uncontrolled way and crowd the marrow, affecting its ability to make normal blood cells. Increasing numbers of abnormal cells, called blast cells or leukaemic blasts eventually spill out of the bone marrow and travel around the body in the bloodstream.

Types of Leukaemias 

Leukaemias are broadly classified by how quickly the disease develops, and by the type of blood cell involved.

  • Acute leukaemias develop quickly and need to be treated urgently.
  • Chronic leukaemias develop more slowly and may not need to be treated for some time after they are diagnosed.
  • Myeloid leukaemias arise in immature blood cells called myeloblasts.
  • Lymphoid leukaemias arise in immature blood cells called lymphoblasts

Therefore there are four main types of leukaemia:

  1. Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) 
  2. Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)
  3. Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML)
  4. Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)



The main symptoms of leukaemia are caused by a lack of normal blood cells. Without enough red cells, normal white cells and platelets people become fatigued, more susceptible to infections and to bleeding and bruising more easily. In some cases, people with chronic leukaemias don't have any troublesome symptoms and the disease is picked up during a routine blood test.  


What is Chemotherapy 

Chemotherapy simply means treatment with medicines. Chemotherapy can be used in combination with surgery and radiation to treat cancer. The doctors will use drugs from different families to maximise efficacy and minimise toxicity to the patient. 


Is Everyones Chemotherapy the same?  

No. Individuals are given the treatment that is the most appropriate for them. Drugs grouped together given in a specific sequence are referred to as a protocol. People may be treated with the same protocol however the doses are tailored to the individual. 


How is Chemotherapy given?  

Chemotherapy is no more painful than any other type of medication. Occasionally veins may become sore with repeated administration. 

Chemotherapy can be given by mouth, as an injection under the skin or into a muscle, an injection into a vein and an injection into the fluid in the spine. Higher doses of Chemotherapy and drugs that require fluids to protect your kidneys are administered in hospital. When certain cytotoxic drugs are given as an injection into the skin or muscle can sometimes be given without needing to be admitted to hospital.


Will Chemotherapy hurt?  

 Chemotherapy is no more painful than any other type of medication. Occasionally veins may become sore with repeated administration.