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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Intrathecal chemotherapy for leukemia

Intrathecal chemotherapy for leukemia

By injecting drugs directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, intrathecal chemotherapy can help target leukemia cells that have spread to the central nervous system.

After you receive intrathecal chemotherapy, you will probably be asked to lay flat to allow the chemotherapy to reach the areas of the spinal cord and brain. To make you more comfortable during this time, a mind-body therapist can practice relaxation therapies with you.

In addition, other members of your care team will be available to help you maintain your quality of life before, during and after you receive intrathecal chemotherapy for leukemia. Therapies like nutrition therapy, naturopathic medicine, oncology rehabilitation and pain management may help to reduce side effects so you can continue to participate in the activities you enjoy.

What is intrathecal chemotherapy?

Intrathecal chemotherapy is a highly-targeted method of delivering chemotherapy to treat cancers that have reached the central nervous system.

Typically, chemotherapy drugs do not pass through the blood-brain barrier. This chemotherapy technique delivers chemotherapy drugs directly into the cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord) to target cancer cells that have spread there. It is delivered either through a lumbar puncture (also called a spinal tap), or through a special device placed under the scalp.