Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia
What is chronic myelogenous leukemia?
Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is a cancer of the blood in which too many granulocytes, a type of white blood cell, are produced in the bone marrow.
Normally, bone marrow cells mature into several different types of blood cells. CML affects the young blood cells (called blasts) that develop into a type of white blood cell (called granulocytes). The main function of granulocytes is to destroy bacteria. The blasts, which do not mature and become too numerous, remain in the bone marrow and blood.
Chronic myelogenous leukemia can occur over a period of months or years. A specific chromosome rearrangement is found in patients with CML. Part of chromosome #9 breaks off and attaches itself to chromosome #22, so that there is an exchange of genetic material between these two chromosomes. This rearrangement changes the position and functions of certain genes, which results in uncontrolled cell growth. Other chromosome abnormalities can also be present.
CML occurs mainly in adults and is rare in children.
What are the symptoms of chronic myelogenous leukemia?
The following are the most common symptoms of chronic myelogenous leukemia. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- persistent weakness
- aches in bones and joints
- swollen lymph nodes
The symptoms of chronic myelogenous leukemia may resemble other blood disorders or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
How is chronic myelogenous leukemia diagnosed?
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for chronic myelogenous leukemia may include:
- additional blood tests and other evaluation procedures
- bone marrow aspiration and biopsy – marrow may be removed by aspiration or a needle biopsy under local anesthesia. In aspiration biopsy, a fluid specimen is removed from the bone marrow. In a needle biopsy, marrow cells (not fluid) are removed. These methods are often used together.
- spinal tap/lumbar puncture – a special needle is placed into the lower back, into the spinal canal. This is the area around the spinal cord. The pressure in the spinal canal and brain can then be measured. A small amount of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) can be removed and sent for testing to determine if there is an infection or other problems. CSF is the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord.
Treatment for myelogenous leukemia:
Specific treatment for chronic myelogenous leukemia will be determined by your physician based on:
- your age, overall health, and medical history
- extent of the disease
- your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- expectations for the course of the disease
- your opinion or preference
Treatment may include:
- biological therapy – using the body’s immune system to fight cancer.
- radiation therapy
- stem cell transplantation
- splenectomy – surgery to remove the spleen.