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Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia


Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), or acute lymphoblastic leukemia, is cancer of the blood cells. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell (WBC). When a person has ALL, more lymphocytes are made than the body needs. These abnormal lymphocytes are called lymphoblasts (leukemia cells). Lymphoblasts do not fight infection like normal WBCs. They crowd the bone marrow and prevent normal blood cells from growing and fighting infection.


Follow up with your PHP or oncologist as directed:

You will need to see your oncologist for ongoing treatment. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.


  • Rest as needed. Return to activities slowly, and do more as you feel stronger.

  • Prevent constipation. High-fiber foods, extra liquids, and regular exercise can help you prevent constipation. Examples of high-fiber foods are fruit and bran. Prune juice and water are good liquids to drink. Regular exercise may also be helpful. You may also be told to take over-the-counter fiber and stool softener medicines. Take these items as directed.

  • Eat healthy foods. Healthy foods may help you feel better and have more energy. If you have trouble swallowing, you may be given foods that are soft or in liquid form. Ask about any extra nutrition you may need, such as nutrition shakes or vitamins. Tell your oncologist or primary healthcare provider (PHP) if you have problems eating, or if you are nauseated.

  • Drink liquids as directed. You may need to drink extra liquids to prevent dehydration, especially if you are vomiting or have diarrhea from cancer treatments. Ask how much liquid you need each day and which liquids are best for you.

Prevent infection:

  • Wash your hands often. Wash your hands after you go to the bathroom or change a diaper. Wash your hands before you eat.

  • Avoid people who are sick. Stay away from people who have a cold or the flu. Also try to stay away from large groups of people to decrease your risk of getting a cold or flu.

  • Clean humidifiers. Change the water in your humidifier or other respiratory equipment daily.

Prevent bleeding and bruising:

  • Avoid sharp objects. Use an electric razor to shave. Use a nail file to keep your nails short and smooth.

  • Care for your mouth. Use a soft toothbrush. Do not floss your teeth while your platelet count is low. Do not use toothpicks.

  • Choose light activities. Avoid any activity that may cause chest pain or trouble breathing. Do not play contact sports, such as football or soccer. Do not travel to high altitudes.

  • Blow your nose gently. Do not pick your nose.

  • Do not take NSAIDs. These are medicines used to reduce swelling, pain, or fever. NSAIDs will thin your blood and make it easier to bleed.

  • Use lubrication when you have sex. Use a water-based lubricant during sex to decrease the chance of bleeding.

  • Do not use tampons. Use sanitary pads instead. Count the number of pads you use during your monthly period.

Contact your oncologist or PHP if:

  • You see blood in your spit or vomit.

  • You have coughing or shortness of breath.

  • You feel dizzy or your heart begins to beat very fast.

  • You have sores or white patches in your mouth or throat.

  • You have rectal pain or hemorrhoids.

  • You have diarrhea or bloody bowel movements.

  • You have pain in your eyes, ears, skin, joints, or stomach.

  • You have pain when you urinate, or bad-smelling urine.

  • You have frequent nosebleeds, or your gums bleed.

  • You have blurred vision, or blood spots in the whites of your eyes.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.

  • You cough up blood.

  • You have a headache, stiff neck, or have trouble seeing or thinking clearly.

  • You are taking chemotherapy pills or have had chemotherapy in the last 2 weeks and you have a fever.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (Discharge Care)