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When you or a loved one is facing leukemia or a related blood disorder, you need care from specialists who offer the most expertise and best treatment options available. At Atrium Health Levine Cancer, that’s exactly what you get.

From diagnosis through survivorship, our leading team of experts delivers comprehensive cancer care at more than 25 locations. We offer access to the latest and most promising treatments, including clinical trials and stem cell or bone marrow transplant, and we’re ready to guide you through care designed for your healthiest future.

Why choose Levine Cancer?

  • Expertly tailored care: We understand that you’re unique, and your care should be too. That’s why our experienced leukemia doctors customize treatment for your personal needs and preferences.
  • Team approach: At every step of your journey, you benefit from the expertise of multiple highly trained specialists working together to help you achieve the best outcome.
  • Complete support: We treat the whole you – body and mind. With the region’s most extensive cancer support and survivorship programs, we offer every resource you may need to focus on healing.
  • Innovative treatments: Our comprehensive, FACT-accredited transplant and cellular therapy center was the first of its kind in the region, offering early access to leukemia treatment options like bone marrow transplant and CAR T-cell therapy.
  • Research and clinical trials: Our physicians are at the forefront of research to advance leukemia treatment. And whenever possible, we match patients with clinical trials of promising new therapies.
  • National recognition: Our cancer program has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report for quality care. And we’re designated as a Center of Excellence by the MDS Foundation for our expertise and research in myelodysplastic syndromes.

Types of leukemia we treat

We have deep experience treating acute and chronic leukemias, as well as related diseases such as myelodysplastic syndromes and myeloproliferative disorders (neoplasms).

Some of the conditions we treat include:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
  • Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL)
  • Aplastic anemia, including severe aplastic anemia (SAA)
  • Blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm (BPDCN)
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
  • Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML)
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)
  • Hairy cell leukemia (HCL)
  • Large granular lymphocytic (LGL) leukemia
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS)/myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN)
  • Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH)
  • Systemic mastocytosis (SM)

Leukemia diagnosis and testing

The most effective treatment starts with a precise diagnosis. Our experts have experience using a variety of tools to accurately diagnose leukemia and determine its type and subtype.

Some diagnostic tests for leukemia include:

  • Physical exam: Your doctor will look for physical signs of leukemia, like swelling in your lymph nodes, liver or spleen.
  • Blood tests: We use several types of blood testing to diagnose leukemia. Often, the first test we use is a complete blood count, which might show abnormally high or low blood cell counts.
  • Bone marrow biopsy: During this procedure, we take a small sample of bone marrow fluid and/or tissue, usually from the hip area, to check cells for signs of cancer.
  • Genetic tests: Certain genetic tests can look for signs of cancer in your genes to help make a diagnosis. Others can check your genes for signs that you may be at risk for cancer in the future.
  • Imaging tests: Imaging such as X-ray, ultrasound, MRI, CT and PET scans may be used to check whether leukemia has affected different parts of your body.
  • Spinal tap: During a spinal tap (or lumbar puncture), your provider places a special needle into your lower back to take a small sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF can be tested to find out if leukemia has spread to your spinal cord or brain.

Leukemia treatments 

Cancers of the blood and bone marrow are complex and require individualized treatment. We offer the full range of leukemia treatment options, and our team has the experience to select the right therapies for the best possible outcome.

Your personalized treatment plan may include:

  • Chemotherapy: These powerful medications shrink or destroy leukemia cells. Chemo may be given as a pill or through an IV.
  • Immunotherapy: These drug therapies, also called biologic therapy, activate your immune system to fight leukemia cells. They can also help ease side effects caused by other treatments.
  • Targeted therapy: These medicines attack the specific genes or proteins that leukemia cells need to grow. They’re taken daily as pills.
  • Radiation therapy: Powerful, high-energy beams are used to target cancer cells and stop their growth. This is most often used when there’s a collection of leukemia cells in one area of your body. It may also be used to prepare for bone marrow transplant.
  • Bone marrow transplant: Also known as stem cell transplant, this treatment replaces diseased cells with healthy blood stem cells. We’ve performed over 1,000 transplants, including autologous (self), allogenic (full-match) and haploidentical half-matched transplants.
  • CAR T-cell therapy: This cellular therapy supercharges your blood cells to fight cancer. We were among the first cancer programs nationwide to offer CAR T-cell therapy for blood cancer, including certain types of leukemia.
  • Active surveillance: Your doctor may recommend this if you’re diagnosed with a slow-growing disease and you have no symptoms. Also known as watchful waiting, we closely monitor your condition and start treatment if anything changes.

Research and clinical trials

Clinical trials give you more opportunities to find the best treatment for you. At Levine Cancer, you get access to groundbreaking treatments through the latest and most innovative clinical trials.

We regularly participate in studies with the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research and the Blood & Marrow Transplant Clinical Trials Network. And we’ve assembled an expert team of scientists in the James G. Cannon Research Center who are pursuing more effective, less toxic therapies for leukemia patients.

Learn more about our research and clinical trials.

Cancer support and survivorship programs 

Cancer affects every part of your life, and the care process can feel confusing and overwhelming – often involving physical, financial and emotional challenges for you and your family. From diagnosis through recovery, we offer comprehensive support to make your journey easier.

Our team can help you navigate treatment decisions, manage side effects, improve strength, cope with emotional challenges and more.

Learn more about our cancer support and survivorship programs.

For referring providers

When you refer a patient to Levine Cancer, we keep you involved and informed throughout the treatment process. Then, we’ll work closely with you to transition them back to your care.

To make a referral, call 980-442-2000.

Our providers 

Our board-certified hematologists and oncologists treat all types of leukemia. Below, meet our leukemia doctors and find the right one for you. If you have been diagnosed with CLL, find a CLL provider here.

Frequently asked questions

Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that starts in the bone marrow, where new blood cells are made. The bone marrow starts making too many blood cells that aren’t normal, called leukemia cells. These cells overtake healthy blood cells and prevent them from working like they should.

Unlike most other cancers, leukemia cells don’t always form a tumor. However, the cancer cells can spread to the bloodstream and lymph nodes. They can also travel to the brain, spinal cord and other parts of the body.

Diagnosing leukemia usually involves several tests. It’s important to see a specialized team for the most accurate diagnosis.

If you’re concerned about your risk for leukemia and don’t have a personal history of cancer, you will probably start by seeing your primary care provider. They can perform a physical exam, order blood tests and make personalized care recommendations for you.

If these initial screenings show signs of a problem, your primary care provider may refer you to a cancer specialist for more testing and care.

All types of leukemia are divided into two categories – acute and chronic – based on how quickly they progress. Acute leukemia typically grows and worsens quickly, over days or weeks, while chronic leukemia typically develops slowly, over months or years.

Leukemia is labeled as either acute or chronic based on how fast the disease progresses. It's also categorized as either lymphoid or myeloid, depending on what type of blood cell has turned into cancer.

Cancer that begins in the lymphoid cells may be called lymphoid, lymphocytic or lymphoblastic leukemia. Cancer that begins in the myeloid cells may be called myeloid, myelogenous or myeloblastic leukemia.

There are 4 main types of leukemia:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): Also called acute lymphoblastic leukemia, ALL occurs when the body produces a large number of immature lymphocytes. The cancer cells grow quickly and replace normal cells in the bone marrow. ALL prevents healthy blood cells from being made. Life-threatening symptoms can occur.
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML): This cancer, also known as acute myelogenous leukemia, starts inside bone marrow and grows from cells that would normally turn into white blood cells. AML is one of the most common types of leukemia among adults.
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL): CLL causes a slow increase in a certain type of white blood cells called B lymphocytes, or B cells. Cancer cells spread through the blood and bone marrow. CLL can also affect the lymph nodes or other organs such as the liver and spleen and can eventually cause the bone marrow to lose its function.
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML): CML causes an uncontrolled growth of immature and mature cells that make a certain type of white blood cell called myeloid cells. The diseased cells build up in the bone marrow and blood. It may also be referred to as chronic myelogenous leukemia.

There are several other subtypes of leukemia, as well as related blood disorders. Our experts treat all of these conditions.

The symptoms and signs of leukemia vary depending on the type of leukemia. Chronic leukemias usually don't cause symptoms in the early stages. Acute leukemias may initially cause symptoms similar to the flu.

Some possible leukemia symptoms in adults include:

  • Excessive sweating, especially at night
  • Feeling very weak or tired (fatigue)
  • Fever and chills
  • Frequent infections
  • Bruising and bleeding easily
  • Pain or tenderness in your bones or joints
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Swelling or discomfort in your midsection (from a swollen spleen or liver)
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck, underarm, groin or stomach

Many other common conditions may cause the same symptoms. Contact your doctor if you have symptoms that concern you, especially if they last more than a couple of weeks without improving.

The cause of leukemia is not known, and most cases can't be prevented. However, there are certain factors that may increase the chances of developing leukemia.

Risk factors for leukemia vary depending on the specific type of disease. Some of the most common risk factors include:

  • Previous radiation treatment or chemotherapy
  • Repeated exposure to some chemicals, like benzene
  • Certain genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome
  • Family history of leukemia, especially a parent or sibling
  • Smoking

It's important to remember that having a risk factor (or several) does not mean that you will definitely get the disease. It's also possible to develop leukemia without having any known risk factors.

If you're concerned about your risk for leukemia, talk to your doctor.

Leukemia treatment is typically led by a hematologist or medical oncologist. They will be the point person for all of the other specialists on your care team.

A hematologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating diseases in the blood and bone marrow. Doctors known as hematologists-oncologists focus specifically on blood cancers, like leukemia.

A medical oncologist is a doctor who specializes in treating cancer with chemotherapy and other medications. If a medical oncologist is your primary cancer doctor, they'll likely work with a hematologist as well.

At Levine Cancer, your dedicated care team may also include radiation oncologists, infectious disease specialists, hematopathologists, as well as specialized pharmacists, advanced care practitioners, clinical and research nurses, social workers and patient navigators.

Treatment for leukemia may cause side effects. The possible side effects depend on the specific treatments you receive and your individual health.

Your care team will give you details about what side effects to expect and how you can manage them. We offer a range of supportive therapies for your physical and mental well-being. And we're here to help you with anything that comes up during or after your treatment.

We have an extensive cancer research program that typically includes several clinical trials for leukemia.

For information about our current studies, talk to your doctor or use our clinical trial search tool.

Between Levine Cancer Institute and Levine Children's, Atrium Health offers leukemia care for all ages.

Levine Children's cares for children and young adults up to age 26 who've been diagnosed with blood cancers. As pediatric patients become adults, their care team helps them transition them to our program at Levine Cancer Institute. This gives our patients continuous care from a health organization they know and trust.

Learn more about pediatric leukemia care.

Your first appointment will be tailored to your individual needs. Please plan to bring: 

  • A list of all medications, vitamins and supplements you're currently taking
  • Medical records and imaging related to your diagnosis from medical providers not affiliated with Atrium Health
  • Your health insurance information

You may also find it helpful to prepare a list of questions you want to ask your doctor. If you have questions or concerns about your appointment, please contact your provider's office.