Know the basics
What is chronic myelogenous leukemia?
Leukemia is cancer of the white blood cells. In leukemia, the bone marrow (spongy tissue in the middle of bones) makes too many white blood cells. Blood cells form and develop in marrow and then move into the bloodstream. Leukemia may affect white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.
The type of leukemia depends on the type of blood cell that has become cancerous. There are four type of leukemia:
- Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia;
- Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia;
- Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia;
- Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.
The term “chronic” means that Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia tends to develops more slowly than acute forms. CML causes bone marrow to make too many white blood cells. These abnormal cells don’t work well. They cannot fight infections and will not die. Moreover, cancerous cells may compress healthy cells, impairing their ability to perform the proper functions.
Myelogenous leukemias develop from cancerous changes in cells that normally produce certain types of white blood cells such as neutrophils, basophils, eosinophils, and monocytes.
How common is chronic myelogenous leukemia?
CML occurs among people of all ages, although is most common after age 60. This disease is rarely found in children. About 20% of adult leukemia cases are chronic myelogenous leukemia, CML cannot be caught or prevented and usually isn’t passed on from parents to children.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of chronic myelogenous leukemia?
Sometimes CML doesn’t cause symptoms at all. Some of the symptoms may be:
- Extreme tiredness;
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained weight loss;
- Frequent infections and slow healing;
- Loss of appetite;
- Swollen or bruised gums;
- Pale skin;
- Bone pain.
Anemia (low red blood cell count) and thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) occur later. People with advanced CML may have severe headaches or shortness of breath (high numbers of myeloblasts get stuck in the lungs and brain).
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?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Feeling very tired.
- Weight loss for no known reason.
- Night sweats.
- Pain or a feeling of fullness below the ribs on the left side.
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor.
Know the causes
What causes chronic myelogenous leukemia?
The cause is unknown, but benzene and high radiation doses may be involved. Also, CML cells contain a chromosome abnormality (Philadelphia chromosome, found in over 95% of people with CML). “Philadelphia chromosome” is the situation in which a part of the DNA from one chromosome moves to another chromosome. This abnormality causes the bone marrow to produce an enzyme called tyrosine kinase, which leads to the overproduction of white blood cells.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for chronic myelogenous leukemia?
There are many risk factors for chronic myelogenous leukemia, such as:
- Contact with radiation, including radiation factory, radiation used in wars or under other radiation treatment for other cancers.
- Higher age has higher risk of leukemia.
- Sex. CML often affect males more than females.
CML does not run in family.
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 chronic myelogenous leukemia diagnosed?
The doctor diagnoses chronic CML by blood and bone marrow tests that show a high white blood cell count, high platelet count, and Philadelphia chromosomes in marrow cells. For a bone marrow biopsy, a long hollow needle is inserted into the bone to remove a marrow sample for study with a microscope.
How is chronic myelogenous leukemia treated?
Hematologists (specialists in blood diseases) or oncologists (specialists in cancer) treat people with CML. Common treatment consists of medications or bone marrow transplantation (replacement of diseased marrow).
The best drug treatment is imatinib (Gleevec). In marrow transplantation, the abnormal bone marrow is replaced with healthy marrow or is treated with medicine. Marrow donors are usually close relatives (brother, sister) or volunteers whose marrow is a close match. Transplantation has many side effects or complications including hair loss and mouth sores, infections, and life-threatening graft-versus-host disease.
Depending on your condition, the doctor may also recommend chemotherapy or biological therapy to treat CML. These treatments are commonly given as tablets taken by mouth, which can reduce the growth of leukemia cells.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage chronic myelogenous leukemia?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with chronic myelogenous leukemia:
- Keep an active lifestyle, but exercise with caution.
- Ask your ctor about diet limits.
- Get a flu shot every fall.
- Brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush. Shave only with an electric razor if you have accelerated or advanced CML.
- Tell your doctor if you have new symptoms or unexplained tiredness, weight loss, pain in the left side of your abdomen, bleeding, fever, sudden severe headaches, or shortness of breath.
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
Ferri, Fred. Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders / Elsevier, 2012. Download version
Porter, R. S., Kaplan, J. L., Homeier, B. P.,& Albert, R. K. (2009). The Merck manual home health handbook. Whitehouse Station, NJ, Merck Research Laboratories. Page 1060.
Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version http://www.cancer.gov/types/leukemia/patient/cml-treatment-pdq. Accessed August 15, 2016.
Leukemia--Chronic Myeloid (Myelogenous) http://www.cancer.org/cancer/leukemia-chronicmyeloidcml/detailedguide/leukemia-chronic-myeloid-myelogenous-what-is-c-m-l. Accessed August 15, 2016.
Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/199425-overview. Accessed August 15, 2016.
Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-myelogenous-leukemia/home/ovc-20202048. Accessed August 15, 2016.