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The Hematological (blood-related) Cancer Program at the Swedish Cancer Institute has earned a reputation for unsurpassed quality of care. Our comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment benefits patients facing leukemia. A multidisciplinary team of specialists meets regularly to share insights, consider alternative approaches and collaborate on the best possible care strategy for every patient.


Leukemia is cancer of the blood or bone marrow, where blood cells are produced. Bone marrow is the soft tissue found in the hollow interior of bones, where blood cells are produced. Leukemia, which means “white blood,” is a disease characterized by an abnormally high incidence of white blood cells. Many times these extra cells are immature or dysfunctional, leading to several complications, such as bleeding or infection. 

There are several subtypes of leukemia which require specific attention to detail, in regard to assessment of risk and appropriate management.


Many patients with leukemia may develop recurrent infections, bleeding or bruising, or symptoms related to anemia (low red blood cell counts), which may include fatigue, shortness of breath, or recurrent infections. 

Diagnostic Tests

Diagnostic tests for leukemia include a thorough physical exam as well as blood tests and sometimes a bone marrow biopsy. The goal in diagnostic testing is to determine the subtype of leukemia that may best be treated by a specific therapy.

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC) – provides information regarding the kinds and numbers of cells in the blood including red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
  • Peripheral Blood Smear – to monitor cell production and evaluate the maturity of cells and platelets.
  • Blood Chemistry – reveals abnormal chemicals that may be present in the blood.
  • Bone Marrow Aspirate – removes a small amount of bone marrow fluid through a needle. The fluid is evaluated for abnormalities in cell production.
  • Bone Marrow Biopsy – removes bone with the marrow inside, in order to evaluate the marrow and fluid under a microscope.

Treatments and Procedures

A number of treatment options are aimed at eliminating the disease to reach a state of complete remission. Swedish offers a full range of state-of-the-art treatments including:

  • Intensive chemotherapy – the most current anti-cancer drugs and treatment protocols are put into practice with promising clinical-research.
  • Less-intensive and targeted systemic therapy – based on a tailored approach to each patient, some patients may preferentially benefit from alternative approaches to leukemia therapy, and the most current anti-cancer drugs and treatment protocols are put into practice with promising clinical research. 
  • Stem-cell transplants – a patient’s own cells are taken from bone marrow or blood, cleansed of any cancer cells and injected back into the bloodstream after high-dose chemotherapy.
  • Immunotherapy (Biological Therapy) – many substances found naturally in the immune system can be reproduced in the laboratory and used to treat cancer. Immunotherapy can help stimulate immune cells, improve the way the immune system responds to cancer and encourages stem cells to develop into healthy blood cells.
  • Radiation Therapy - in rare instances, a patient may benefit from the addition of radiation therapy to their treatment course.

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Learn more about the stem cell transplant process in these three videos.

Research and Clinical Trials

If your physician believes you are a good candidate to participate in a clinical trial evaluating a new treatment or more effective combinations of treatments – and you agree – you will have access to the very latest in research treatments.

At any given time, the Swedish Cancer Institute offers patients more than 140 clinical-research studies involving most types of cancers. For patients with leukemia, Swedish Cancer Institute offers potential clinical trial options for patients in every stage of leukemia treatment, from the initial diagnosis to settings of relapsed disease. 

Additionally, our physician specialists collaborate with other regional and national research groups, including the Southwest Oncology Group, National Cancer Institute, Puget Sound Oncology Consortium and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Education and Support for Patients and Families

Beyond physical health, the Swedish Cancer Institute is committed to the emotional well-being of our patients and their families. We offer:

Complementary therapies include:

Learn more about patient support and resources and services for the body, mind and spirit at Swedish.