Chronic myelogenous leukemia
Chronic myelogenous leukemia
Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is an uncommon type of cancer of the blood cells. The term "chronic" in chronic myelogenous leukemia indicates that this cancer tends to progress more slowly than acute forms of leukemia. The term "myelogenous" (my-uh-LOHJ-uh-nus) in chronic myelogenous leukemia refers to the type of cells affected by this cancer.
Chronic myelogenous leukemia can also be called chronic myeloid leukemia and chronic granulocytic leukemia. Chronic myelogenous leukemia typically affects older adults and rarely occurs in children, though it can occur at any age.
Signs and symptoms of chronic myelogenous leukemia may include:
When to see a doctor
Because people with chronic myelogenous leukemia tend to respond better to treatment when it's started early, make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs or symptoms that worry you.
Chronic myelogenous leukemia occurs when something goes awry in the genes of your blood cells. It's not clear what initially sets off this process, but doctors have discovered how it progresses into chronic myelogenous leukemia.
First, an abnormal chromosome develops
The extra-short chromosome 22 is called the Philadelphia chromosome, named for the city where it was discovered. The Philadelphia chromosome is present in the blood cells of 90 percent of people with chronic myelogenous leukemia.
Second, the abnormal chromosome creates a new gene
Third, the new gene allows too many diseased blood cells
In chronic myelogenous leukemia, this process doesn't work properly. The tyrosine kinase caused by the BCR-ABL gene causes too many white blood cells. Most or all of these contain the abnormal Philadelphia chromosome. The diseased white blood cells don't grow and die like normal cells. The diseased white blood cells build up in huge numbers, crowding out healthy blood cells and damaging the bone marrow.
How the Philadelphia chromosome forms
An abnormal chromosome called the Philadelphia chromosome is associated with chronic myelogenous leukemia. Your cells each contain 23 pairs of chromosomes that are made of DNA and hold the ...
Factors that increase the risk of chronic myelogenous leukemia:
Family history is not a risk factor
Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) can cause a variety of complications, including:
Preparing for your appointment
Start by making an appointment with your family doctor or a general practitioner if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you. If blood tests or other tests and procedures suggest leukemia, your doctor may refer you to a specialist in the treatment of blood and bone marrow diseases and conditions (hematologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help make the most of your time together. List questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For chronic myelogenous leukemia, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions that occur to you.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Tests and procedures used to diagnose chronic myelogenous leukemia include:
Phases of chronic myelogenous leukemia
Phases of chronic myelogenous leukemia include:
Bone marrow biopsy
In a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy, a doctor or nurse uses a thin needle to remove a small amount of liquid bone marrow, usually from a spot in the back of your hipbone called the posterior iliac ...
Treatments and drugs
The goal of chronic myelogenous leukemia treatment is to eliminate the blood cells that contain the abnormal BCR-ABL gene that causes the overabundance of diseased blood cells. For most people, it's not possible to eliminate all diseased cells, but treatment can help achieve a long-term remission of the disease.
Targeted drugs are the initial treatment for most people diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia. If the disease doesn't respond or becomes resistant to the first targeted drug, doctors may consider other targeted drugs or other treatments. Side effects of these targeted drugs include swelling or puffiness of the skin, nausea, muscle cramps, rash, fatigue, diarrhea, and skin rashes.
Doctors haven't determined a safe point at which people with chronic myelogenous leukemia can stop taking targeted drugs. For this reason, most people continue to take targeted drugs even when blood tests reveal a remission of chronic myelogenous leukemia.
Blood stem cell transplant
During a blood stem cell transplant, high doses of chemotherapy drugs are used to kill the blood-forming cells in your bone marrow. Then blood stem cells from a donor or your own cells that were previously collected and stored are infused into your bloodstream. The new cells form new, healthy blood cells to replace the diseased cells.
Lifestyle and home remedies
For many people, chronic myelogenous leukemia is a disease they will live with for years. Many will continue treatment with imatinib indefinitely. Some days, you may feel sick even if you don't look sick. And some days, you may just be sick of having cancer. Self-care measures to help you adjust and cope with a chronic illness include:
No alternative medicines have been found to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia. But alternative medicine may help you cope with the stress of a chronic condition and the side effects of cancer treatment. Talk to your doctor about your options, such as:
Coping and support
Chronic myelogenous leukemia often is a chronic disease and requires long-term treatments. To help you cope with your cancer journey, try to:
Last Updated: 2013-04-20
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