Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is a rare form of cancer of the blood cells. It is called "chronic" because it develops more slowly than other forms of leukemia, which are considered "acute."

CAUSES

No one knows the exact cause of this condition. You have a higher risk of developing this kind of leukemia if you have:

  • An abnormal chromosome called a "Philadelphia chromosome." Chromosomes contain your genes, which determine your physical traits (i.e. eye or hair color).

  • Had radiation treatment for some other condition or form of cancer.

  • Been exposed to radiation due to fallout from a nuclear bomb or in the wake of a nuclear accident.

SYMPTOMS

At first, some people do not have symptoms of chronic myelogenous leukemia. After a while, people may notice some symptoms, such as:

  • Feeling more tired than usual, even after rest.

  • Unplanned weight loss.

  • Heavy sweating at night.

  • Fevers.

  • Paleness.

  • A feeling of fullness in the upper left part of the abdomen.

  • Easy bruising and/or bleeding.

  • More frequent infections.

DIAGNOSIS

  • During a physical exam, your caregiver may notice that you have an enlarged spleen, liver and/or lymph nodes.

  • Blood and bone marrow tests may show the presence of the Philadelphia chromosome, as well as other abnormalities.

TREATMENT

There are different types of treatment used for this condition, including:

  • Targeted drugs. These medications interfere with chemicals the leukemia cells need in order to grow and multiply.

  • Chemotherapy drugs. These medications kill cells that are multiplying quickly, such as leukemia cells.

  • Biological therapy. This treatment boosts the ability of the patient's own immune system to fight the leukemia cells.

  • Bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell transplant. This treatment allows the patient to receive very high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation. These high doses kill the cancer cells, but also destroy the bone marrow. After treatment is complete, the patient is given donor bone marrow or stem cells, which will replace the bone marrow.

  • Leukapheresis. This involves sending the patient's blood through a machine to cleanse it of leukemia cells.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Take all medications exactly as directed. Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort or fever as directed by your caregiver

  • Although some of your treatments might affect your appetite, try to eat regular, healthy meals.

  • If you develop any side effects, tell your caregiver. He or she may have recommendations of things you can do to improve symptoms.

  • Consider learning some ways to cope with the stress of having a chronic illness, such as yoga, meditation, or participating in a support group.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF YOU:

  • Develop an unexplained oral temperature of 102° F (38.9° C) or more.

  • Develop chest pains.

  • Feel short of breath.

  • Feel light-headed or pass out.

  • Notice pain, swelling or redness anywhere in your legs.

  • Have uncontrollable bleeding, such as a nosebleed that will not stop.

  • Are unable to stop throwing up (vomiting).

  • Cannot keep liquids down.