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HAIRY CELL LEUKEMIA
Snippet: Hairy Cell Leukemia article has reliable information
about this disease. It covers major topics like Diagnosis,
Prognosis, Symptoms, Treatment, survival rate, Causes.
Cancer disease can always be a life threatening disease. There
are some of the chronic type of cancers Hairy Cell Leukemia is
one among them. The article Hairy Cell Leukemia has reliable
information about this disease. It covers major topics like
Diagnosis, Prognosis, Symptoms, Treatment, survival rate,
1. About Hairy Cell Leukemia
Hairy cell leukemia is a blood cancer which is rare and slowgrowing, in this type of cancer your bone marrow produces too
much B cells (lymphocytes), a type of white blood cell that fights
These excess B cells are abnormal and look "hairy" under a
microscope. There will be a increase in the number of leukemia,
which will reduce healthy platelets, white blood cells and red
blood cells are produced.
Hairy cell leukemia affects more males than females and occurs
most often in middle-aged and older adults.
Hairy cell leukemia will be treated as a chronic disease because it
will never go away completely, although treatment may lead to
remission for years.
2. Leukemia Symptoms
Some people have no symptoms or signs of hairy cell leukemia,
but a blood test for another disease or condition may
inadvertently reveal Hairy Cell Leukemia.
At other times, people with hairy cell leukemia have signs and
symptoms common to a number of diseases and symptoms are
• A feeling of fullness in your abdomen that can make it
uncomfortable to eat more than a little at a time
• Recurrent infections
• Easy bruise
2.1. When to see a doctor
Try to consult your doctor if you have persistent signs and
symptoms that worry you.
3. Leukemia Causes
It is not known what causes hairy cell leukemia.
Doctors know that cancer occurs when cells develop errors in
their DNA. In this case, mutations in DNA cause bone marrow
stem cells to create too many white blood cells that are not
functioning properly. Doctors do not know what is causing the
mutations in DNA that lead to hairy cell leukemia.
3.1. Risk factors
Some factors may increase your risk of developing hairy cell
leukemia. Not all research studies agree on which factors increase
your risk of the disease.
According to some research studies the risk of Hairy Cell
Leukemia increases with:
3.1.1. Radiation Exposure
People exposed to radiation, such as those working around x-ray
machines or those who have received radiation treatment for
cancer, may be at a higher risk of developing hairy cell leukemia,
but the proper evidence is not found.
3.1.2. Exposure To Chemicals
Agricultural and Industrial chemicals may play a role in the
development of hairy cell leukemia. However, some studies have
found that this is not the case.
3.1.3. Exposure To Sawdust
Some studies have found a link between working with sawdust
and wood and an increased risk of hairy cell leukemia. But this is
not proved conclusively.
Men of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry more frequently suffered from
this disease other than men from other ethnic groups.
Hairy cell leukemia progresses very slowly and sometimes
remains stable for many years. For will result in few complications
of the disease to occur.
Untreated hairy cell leukemia that progresses can reduce healthy
blood cells, resulting in serious side effects, such as:
The low number of white blood cells puts you at risk for
The low platelet count makes it difficult for your body to stop
bleeding if you get hurt. If your platelet count is moderately low,
you may notice that you have bruises more easily. A very low
platelet count may cause spontaneous bleeding of the gums or
A low number of red blood cells means fewer cells are available to
carry oxygen to all parts of the body. This is called anemia.
Anemia causes fatigue.
4.4. Increased risk of second cancer
Some studies have shown that people with hairy cell leukemia are
at increased risk of developing a second type of cancer. It is
unclear whether this risk is due to the effect of hairy cell leukemia
on the body or whether the risk comes from the drugs used to
treat hairy cell leukemia.
The second cancers found in people treated for hairy cell
leukemia include non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, among others.
To diagnose Hairy Cell Leukemia, your doctor may recommend
tests that include:
5.1. Physical Examination
By feeling your spleen - an oval shaped organ on the left side of
your upper abdomen - your doctor can determine if it is enlarged.
A hypertrophy of the spleen can cause a feeling of fullness in your
abdomen that makes it uncomfortable to eat.
Your doctor may also look for enlarged lymph nodes that may
contain leukemia cells.
5.2. Blood tests
Your doctor uses blood tests, such as complete blood counts, to
monitor the blood levels in your blood.
People with hairy cell leukemia have low levels of the three types
of blood cells: platelets, red blood cells and white blood cells.
Another blood test called peripheral blood smear looks for hair
cell leukemia cells in a sample of your blood.
5.3. Biopsy of the bone marrow
During a bone marrow biopsy, a little part of bone marrow is
removed from the hip area. This sample is used to look for
ciliated cell leukemia cells and to monitor your healthy blood
5.4. Computerized tomography (CT)
A scanner shows detailed pictures of the inside of your body. Your
doctor may prescribe a CT scan to detect enlargement of your
spleen and lymph nodes.
Treatment is not always necessary for people with hairy cell
leukemia. Because this cancer advance to next stage very slowly
and sometimes it will stop progressing, some people prefer to
wait to treat their cancer only if it causes symptoms and signs.
The majority of people with hairy cell leukemia should eventually
If your Hairy Cell Leukemia causes symptoms and signs, you may
decide to seek treatment. There is no cure for Hairy Cell
Leukemia. But the treatments are effective in putting hairy cell
leukemia into remission for years.
Doctors consider chemotherapy to be the first line of treatment
for hairy cell leukemia. The vast majority of people will
experience partial or complete remission through the use of
Drugs used in Chemotherapy are:
Treatment of hairy cell leukemia usually begins with cladribine. A
continuous infusion of the drug will be given into a vein for
Most people who receive cladribine experience a complete
remission that can last several years. If your hairy cell leukemia
comes back, you can get cladribine again. Side effects of
cladribine may include fever and infection.
6.1.2. Pentostatin (Nipent)
Pentostatin causes remission rates similar to those of cladribine,
but is administered according to a different schedule. People
taking pentostatin receive infusions every two weeks for three to
six months. Side effects of this drug may include infection,
fever, and nausea.
6.2. Biological Treatments
Biological therapy attempts to make cancer cells more
recognizable to immune system of your body. Once your immune
system identifies cancer cells as intruders, it can begin to destroy
Types of Biologic Treatments:
Currently, the role of interferon in the treatment of hairy cell
leukemia is limited. You may receive interferon if you can not
take chemotherapy or if the chemotherapy has not been working
Most people experience partial remission with this treatment,
which is taken for a year. Side effects include flu-like signs, such
as fatigue and fever.
6.2.2. Rituximab (Rituxan)
Rituximab is a monoclonal antibody registered to treat chronic
lymphocytic leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, although it
is sometimes used in hairy cell leukemia.
If you cannot take chemotherapy or if the chemotherapy drugs
did not work for you, your doctor might consider rituximab. Side
effects of rituximab include infection and fever.
Surgery to remove your spleen (splenectomy) could be an option
if it is enlarged and cause pain or if your spleen breaks. Although
elimination of the spleen can not cure hairy cell leukemia, a
surgery can usually help to restore normal blood counts.
Splenectomy is not commonly used to treat hairy cell leukemia,
but may be useful in some situations. Any procedure carries a
risk of bleeding and infection.
7. Alternative Medicine
Some people with cancer find that alternative and complementary
treatments can help them cope with the side effects of cancer
Alternative and complementary medicine can not cure your hairy
cell leukemia, but it can offer helpful ways to cope after and
during treatment. Talk to your doctor if you are interested in
A practitioner inserts tiny needles into your skin at specific points
during an acupuncture session. Acupuncture can help relieve the
vomiting and nausea caused by chemotherapy.
Acupuncture can be safe when done by a experienced practitionr.
You can ask your doctor who may be able to recommend a
practitioner in your community.
Acupuncture is not safe if you are taking blood thinners or if you
have low blood counts.
Here we use oils that give off pleasant scents, such as lavender.
The oils can be massaged into your skin, added to the bath water
or heated to release their odors.
Aromatherapy can help relieve stress. This method is safe, but
oils applied to your skin can cause allergic reactions, so check the
A massage therapist uses his hands to knead your soft tissues
and muscles. Massage can help relieve fatigue and anxiety. Many
cancer centers have massage therapists who work with people
People with cancer should not receive massage if they have low
blood counts. Ask the massage therapist to avoid using deep
pressure. A massage should not hurt, so talk if you feel pain
during a massage.
7.4. Body-Mind Therapies
Mind-body therapies can help you relax and they can help reduce
pain. Mind-body therapies include relaxation and meditation
Mind-body therapies are generally safe and advisable. A therapist
can guide you the best suitable therapies or you can do them
Doctors consider Hairy Cell Leukemia to be a chronic form of
cancer because it never completely disappears. Even if you get a
remission, you will probably need follow-up visits with your doctor
to monitor your blood count and your cancer.
Knowing that your cancer could come back at any time can be
stressful. You might consider:
8.1. Learn enough to feel comfortable making decisions
about your care or treatment
Learn about your disease and its treatment to make you feel
more comfortable making decisions about your treatment.
Having a better idea of life after? from treatment and what to
expect treatment can make you feel more in control of your
disease. Ask your doctor or other health adviser for reliable
sources of information to help you get started.
8.2. Connect With Other Cancer Survivors
Although family and friends provide an important support
network during your cancer experience, they can not always
understand what it is like to face this chronic disease. Other
cancer survivors provide a unique support network.
Ask your doctor or health advisor which support organizations or
groups in your surroundings can put you in contact with other
cancer survivors. Organizations such as the Leukemia &
Lymphoma Society and the American Cancer Society offer online
8.3. Take Care Of Yourself
You can not control if your hairy cell leukemia is coming back, but
you can control other aspects of your health.
Take care of yourself by eating a balanced diet with lots of
vegetables and fruits and exercising regularly. A healthy body can
more easily repel infections, and if you still need to be treated for
cancer, you will be better able to cope with the side effects of the
9. Prepare Your Appointment
You will probably start by first consulting your doctor. If your
doctor suspects that you may have hairy cell leukemia, he may
refer to a doctor who treats bone marrow and blood related
Because appointments can be brief, and because there is often a
lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be prepared. Here is
some information to help you get ready and know what to expect
from your doctor.
9.1. What you can do
• Be aware of the restrictions before the appointment. By the
time you make an appointment, try to ask anything you
need to do in advance, such as diet restriction.
• Note down all the Signs you are experiencing, including
those that may seem unrelated to the reason you planned
• Write down the key personal information, including recent
life changes or major constraints.
• Make a list of all the supplements, medications or vitamins
you are taking.
• Consider taking a friend or family member along. Sometimes
it can be difficult to remember all the information provided
during an appointment. Someone accompanying you may
remember something you forgot or missed about.
• Write questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is less, so a list of questions can help
you make the most of your time together. List your questions
from most important to least important in case the time is up. For
hairy cell leukemia, some basic questions to ask your doctor
What types of tests do I need?
Will I need treatment for my hairy cell leukemia?
If I do not have treatment, will my leukemia get worse?
If I need treatment, what are my options?
Will the treatment cure my Hairy Cell Leukemia?
What are the side complications of each treatment option?
Is there a treatment that seems the best for me?
How my daily life will be changed because of cancer treatment?
I have these other health problems. How can I better manage
Are there any other things in diet and excercise I have to follow?
Do I have to see a specialist? How much should I pay, and will
my insurance cover it?
Are there printed materials or other brochures that I can take
with me? Which websites do you recommend?
In addition to the questions you have asked your doctor, do not
hesitate to ask more questions during your appointment.
What To Expect From Your Doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being
prepared to answer them may allow you to cover other points
later that you want to address. Your doctor may ask some of
When did you start experiencing symptoms for the first time?
Have your signs been occasional or continuous?
How serious are your symptoms?
What seems to improve your symptoms?
What seems to make your symptoms worse?
• Survival depends on many factors, so there is no exact
measure to say how long you will live. It depends on your
fitness level, individual condition and treatment.
• Statistics for this type of leukemia are more difficult to
estimate than for other more common leukemias.
• Some statistics must be based on a small number of people.
Remember, they cannot tell you what will happen in your
• Your doctor has more information about your own prospects
11.1. Survival Statistics for Hairy Cell Leukemia
• These days, doctors believe that most people with hairy cell
leukemia can expect to have a normal lifespan. For detailed
information, you will need to talk to your own specialist.
• Generally for people with hairy cell leukemia:
• Approximately 90 out of 100 (90%) will survive their
leukemia for 5 years or more after being diagnosed
• Hairy cell leukemia usually develops slowly and can be kept
under control for many years with treatment. You can hear
these periods called remission. This is the period where the
disease is not active. You have no symptoms and this does
not appear in your blood samples.
• It may be possible to obtain a second remission with more
treatment if hairy cell leukemia returns (relapses).
• A UK study published in 2005 examined patients with hairy
cell leukemia and their relapse rate and response to
treatment. The researchers found that:
• 5 years after diagnosis, hairy cell leukemia has returned to
about 24 to 33 people out of 100 (24 to 33%)
• Ten years after diagnosis, hairy cell leukemia has returned
to approximately 42 to 48 people out of 100 (42 to 48%)
• If your leukemia returns after treatment, your doctor will
give you a different treatment or the same treatment as
before. The choice depends on the duration of your
remission. If you have had a long remission, it is worth it to
repeat the same treatment. If the remission was shorter,
your specialist is more likely to want to try a different
11.2. What Affects Survival
Having a very low number of red blood cells (hemaglobin),
platelet counts or white blood cell count (neutrophils) can affect
If you have swollen lymph nodes in your belly (abdomen), this
can also affect your likely survival. Doctors call this
People who have a complete response to treatment do better
than those who have a partial response. In hairy cell leukemia, a
complete response is when all the signs of leukemia have
disappeared. A partial response means that there are still
abnormal leukemia cells or other symptoms of leukemia.
The terms 1-year survival and 5-year survival do not mean that
you will only live for 1 or 5 years. They refer to the number of
people still alive 1 year or 5 years after their cancer diagnosis.
Some people live longer periods than 5 years.