Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is a disease characterized by increased, unregulated growth and accumulation of abnormal granulocytes, a type of white blood cells. These cancerous granulocytes do not function like normal cells, and their increased production and buildup in the bone marrow and bloodstream can crowd out normal red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, leading the person to be susceptible to anemia, infection and bleeds that do not clot.
Although CML typically develops slowly with little or no symptoms, it can accelerate to a "blast crisis", characterized by rapid growth and buildup of cancer cells—similar to acute myeloid leukemia—that requires immediate and intensive treatment.
Thanks to developments in cancer therapy, CML is a highly treatable disease. Depending on the phase of CML upon diagnosis, treatment
may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, stem cell transplantation and, in some cases, surgery.
Symptoms associated with CML include:
Pain or feeling of fullness below the ribs
Unexplained weight loss
Because CML develops slowly, some patients may not experience symptoms at all and may be diagnosed as a result of a routine blood test.
If your or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms, please contact your doctor for further evaluation, which may include a biopsy for a leukemia diagnosis.
Risk factors associated with CML include the following:
Age: Likelihood of developing CML increases with age
Gender: Men are slightly more likely to be diagnosed with CML than women
Philadelphia chromosome: A genetic abnormality involving portions of chromosome 9 and 22 to be swapped. Most patients with CML have this abnormality, but it is also found in patients with other blood cancers.
People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor.
Note that having one or more risk factors does not mean that a person will develop CML. Most people who have risk factors never develop cancer. Likewise, some people who develop leukemia may not have any risk factors present.
If you suspect that you or a loved one may have CML, please contact your doctor for a medical examination.
If you have been diagnosed with leukemia or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient
or contact us at 800-826-HOPE.
Sources: American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute