Thanks to advances in research, people with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) are managing their diagnosis better than ever before, and many are experiencing long-term remissions. Since CML treatment requires ongoing therapy, people with CML should envision their journey as a marathon, not a sprint.

There are many factors that may influence your ability to follow a treatment plan, including side effects from medications, a change in routine, and new responsibilities. This fact sheet will address barriers to taking your pills, provide practical tips for staying on schedule, and discuss communication strategies so that you can go the distance.

Strategies for taking your pills

Manage side effects A major barrier for many CML patients in taking their pills on schedule is the concern over side effects. Effects from treatment can be difficult and may lead you to stop your therapy. Each drug has unique side effects that will vary in type and severity; they can even vary with each patient. Side effects such as fluid retention, muscle cramps, and bone pain can impact your quality of life and your daily routine.

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It’s important to remember that side effects can be managed. Talk to your health care team before beginning your treatment to ask about potential treatment effects and ways to prevent them. Work with your doctor to remove any obstacles that can keep you from staying on a therapy.

The goal of treatment is to find a good fit so that you feel comfortable. Maintaining good communication with your health care provider is important in managing side effects.

Get organized Some patients struggle with getting organized and staying on a daily medication schedule. But in order for a therapy to be effective, you must maintain a steady amount of medicine in your body. Organizing your medications in a pill box may help reduce the risk of missing a dose or taking incorrect medications. Routine also plays an important role in adherence by triggering a person’s memory.

To prevent missing a dose, consider creating a dosing schedule. Set an alarm on your watch, phone, or computer to alert you that it’s time to take your pills. Or, make a simple poster that lists all of your current medications by type, time, and dose. Whatever you decide, choose a method that works best for you based on your preferences and needs.