Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is a cancer that affects blood cells and bone marrow. Check out a full explanation of the symptoms, causes, and how to treat it in the following review.
What is Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia?
Chronic myelogenous leukemia often called chronic myelocytic leukemia, chronic myelogenous leukemia, chronic granulocytic leukemia or CML leukemia.
Cancer cells in this disease can spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream, and attack nearby lymph nodes such as the spleen, liver and central nervous system, namely the brain and spinal cord.
The term chronic in this disease leads to the rapid development of cancer cells. This type of cancer affects one of the white blood cells (myeloid).
Under normal conditions, these white blood cells play a role in fighting infection and preventing damage to body tissues. In CML, the bone marrow produces excessively immature myeloid, which makes the body susceptible to infection.
Symptom Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia
CML is a condition that has three phases: chronic, accelerated, and blastic. Here’s the explanation:
This is the earliest stage and the easiest to treat. This condition often has no symptoms.
During this period, the number of blood cells that are not functioning properly increases. You may get some symptoms such as:
- Feeling very tired.
- Bruises appear.
- Night sweats
- Short breath.
- Weight loss
- Swelling or pain on the left side (can be a sign of an enlarged spleen).
- Bones ache.
Other symptoms that may occur include stroke, vision changes, ringing in the ears, feeling like you are in a daze, and having prolonged erections.
3. Blastic phase
Leukemic cells multiply and secrete healthy blood cells and platelets. At this stage, you will have more severe symptoms, including:
- Skin changes including lumps or tumors.
- Swollen glands.
- Bone pain.
When is the Right Time to See a Doctor?
Consult your doctor immediately if you have persistent signs or symptoms that are worrying, such as persistent fever or nosebleeds.
The symptoms often resemble those of other infectious diseases such as the flu. Therefore, examinations need to be carried out to detect early the possibility of cancer and prevent the development of the disease.
Also read: 5 Types of Cancer That Make You Constantly Nosebleed
Reason Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia
This condition occurs when something goes wrong with a gene in bone marrow cells. It’s not clear what initially triggers this process, but there are several conditions that can cause this, including:
Abnormally Developed Chromosomes
Human cells consist of 23 pairs of chromosomes. These chromosomes store DNA which contains the instructions (genes) that control the cells in the body. In a person who has this condition, the chromosomes in the blood cells swap parts.
Part of chromosome 9 swaps places with parts of chromosome 22, thus creating an extra short chromosome 22 and an extra long chromosome 9.
Abnormal Chromosomes Create New Genes
The gene from chromosome 9 combines with the gene from chromosome 22 to make a new gene called BCR-ABL. The BCR-ABL gene contains instructions that tell abnormal blood cells to produce many proteins called tyrosine kinase.
The protein promotes cancer by allowing certain blood cells to grow out of control.
New Gene Disrupts Healthy Blood Cells
When the bone marrow is functioning normally, it produces immature cells (blood stem cells) in a controlled manner. These cells then mature and specialize into the different types of blood cells circulating in the body namely red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. In CML, this process doesn’t work very well.
Tyrosine kinase caused by the BCR-ABL gene allows too many white blood cells to develop. Most or all of these cells contain abnormal chromosomes.
Diseased white blood cells do not grow and die like normal cells. Then diseased white blood cells accumulate in large numbers, crowding out healthy blood cells and destroying the bone marrow.
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Risk Factors Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia
Although the cause is not clearly known, some people can have a higher risk of experiencing one of the types blood cancer these include:
- Elderly people.
- Have a smoking habit
- Often exposed to smoke from chemicals that are carcinogenic.
- Radiation exposure. In rare cases, this condition is caused by very high radiation exposure. A slightly increased risk also occurs in some people who are treated with high-dose radiation therapy for other cancers, such as lymphoma.
Also Read: 8 Types of Viruses That Can Increase the Risk of Getting Cancer
Diagnosis Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia
Several tests can be done to diagnose CML, including:
The doctor will check vital signs such as pulse and blood pressure. In addition, the doctor will also check the lymph nodes, spleen and stomach, to determine whether they are enlarged.
A complete blood count can reveal abnormalities in the blood cells, such as a very high white blood cell count. Blood chemistry tests to measure organ function are needed to help doctors make a diagnosis.
Bone marrow biopsies and bone marrow aspiration are used to collect bone marrow samples for laboratory testing. This test involves collecting bone marrow from the hip bone.
Test to Look for the Philadelphia Chromosome
Special tests like fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR), analyzing blood or bone marrow samples for the presence or absence of the Philadelphia chromosome or the BCR-ABL gene.
Also Read: Is it true that sugar can increase the risk of cancer? Here’s the Explanation
Treatment Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia
The goal of treatment is to remove blood cells that contain the abnormal BCR-ABL gene that causes an overabundance of unhealthy blood cells. In general, treatment begins with drugs that are targeted at preventing the disease from progressing.
These drugs are designed to attack cancer by focusing on the specific aspects of cancer cells that allow them to grow and multiply. The target of this drug is the protein produced by the BCR-ABL gene viz tyrosine kinase.
Drugs that inhibit development tyrosine kinase These include: imatinib, dasatinib, nilotinib, bosutinib, and ponatinib. This drug is the initial treatment for people diagnosed with CML. Side effects of these targeted drugs include swelling of the skin, nausea, muscle cramps, fatigue, diarrhea and skin rashes.
If the disease does not respond to or becomes resistant to targeted drugs, the doctor may consider other targeted drugs, such as omacetaxine or other treatments.
In certain situations, the doctor may also consider stopping treatment with targeted drugs after weighing the benefits and risks.
Bone Marrow Transplant
Bone marrow transplant is also called stem cell transplant. This procedure offers a definitive cure for CML. Even so, bone marrow transplants carry risks and carry a high rate of serious complications.
During a bone marrow transplant, high doses of chemotherapy drugs are used to kill blood-forming cells in the bone marrow. Then the blood stem cells from the donor are introduced into the bloodstream. The new cells form new healthy blood cells to replace diseased cells.
Chemotherapy is drug treatment to kill fast-growing cells in the body, including leukemia cells. Chemotherapy drugs are sometimes combined with targeted drug therapy to treat aggressive CML leukemia. The side effects of chemotherapy drugs depend on what drugs are used.
This is a procedure to destroy and stop the growth of cancer cells using high-energy radiation beams. Generally, this procedure is rarely used as a treatment, but in certain conditions this therapy may be necessary.
Radiation therapy is useful for treating pain due to bone damage caused by the growth of leukemia cells in the bone marrow.
Administration of drugs to boost the body’s immune system and help the body fight cancer cells. Types of drugs used for example interferon. To treat CML, this drug is usually given as a daily injection under the skin. Not infrequently, this drug is also injected into a muscle or vein.
Prevention Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia
Basically, there is no way to prevent chronic myelocytic leukemia.
For some people, when treatments have been tried and are not controlling the cancer, it may be time to weigh the benefits and risks to try a new treatment.
However, there are several efforts that can be made to reduce your risk of developing leukemia, including:
- Stop smoking habit.
- Exercise regularly.
- Use protective equipment when working in an environment that is prone to exposure to hazardous chemicals.
- Undergo routine health checks to detect cancer early.
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- Anonymous. Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML). https://www.webmd.com/cancer/lymphoma/cml-need-to-know-first#1. (Accessed February 14, 2023).
- Anonymous. 2018. Treating Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/chronic-myeloid-leukemia/treating.html. (Accessed February 14, 2023)
- Anonymous. 2018. Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/chronic-myeloid-leukemia/causes-risks-prevention.html. (Accessed February 14, 2023)
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