What is hairy cell leukemia?


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Know the basics

What is hairy cell leukemia?

Hairy cell leukemia is a rare kind of blood cancer (malignancy).It’s a disease of B cells, or lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. The name refers to the hairy look of the cells under a microscope. This kind of leukemia is more common among men than women, usually middle-aged. About 2% of all leukemia cases are hairy cell leukemia.

How common is hairy cell leukemia?

Hairy cell leukemia is considered a chronic disease. It affects more men than women, and it occurs most commonly in middle-aged or older adults. You can minimize the chance of having hernias by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of hairy cell leukemia?

Symptoms of HCL may include any of the following:

  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Excessive sweating (especially at night)
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling full after eating only a small amount
  • Recurrent infections and fevers
  • Pain or fullness in the upper left belly
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss

There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What causes hairy cell leukemia?

HCL occurs when cells develop errors in their DNA and lead to the abnormal growth of B cells. This condition creates too many white blood cells and lowers the number of normal blood cells. Why these mutations occur isn’t known and still is researching.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for hairy cell leukemia?

Certain factors may increase your risk of developing hairy cell leukemia:

  • Exposure to radiation.
  • Exposure to chemicals.
  • Exposure to sawdust.

Not having risk factors does not mean you will not get hamstring strians. These factors are for reference only. You should consult your doctor for more details.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is hairy cell leukemia diagnosed?

The health care provider makes a preliminary diagnosis from the medical history, blood tests, and physical examination. The final diagnosis depends on finding the special hairy white blood cells in the blood. A referral will be made to a blood specialist (hematologist). A biopsy of bone marrow is performed. In this biopsy, the hematologist takes a sample of bone marrow for study with a microscope and performs additional tests on the bone marrow sample.

How is hairy cell leukemia treated?

Treatment may not be needed for the early stages of this disease. Some patients may need an occasional blood transfusion.

If treatment is needed because of very low blood counts, chemotherapy drugs can be used. In most cases, chemotherapy can relieve the symptoms for many years. Besides, your doctor may use some new drugs include cladribine (2-CDA) and 2 deoxycoformycin (DCF, pentostatin). About three-fourths of people have a complete response. Side effects include a temporary decrease in blood counts and numbness and tingling in fingers and toes. Interferon or rituximab might be tried if chemotherapy doesn’t work or isn’t possible.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage hairy cell leukemia?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with hairy cell leukemia:

  • Re-examinate punctually to keep track on the disease’s progress and your health condition.
  • Follow your doctor’s instruction, take medicines as advised by your doctor.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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