Chronic Myelocytic Leukemia

Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. The bone marrow makes abnormal blood cells including: CML progresses gradually. It is often slow growing for many years. Over time, it may change into acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). This is a more aggressive type of leukemia. It progresses more rapidly and is more serious. Cancer occurs when cells in the body become abnormal. They divide without control or order. Leukemia is cancer of the white blood cells and their parent cells. Leukemia cells do not function normally. They cannot do what normal blood cells do. In this case, they can not fight infections. This means that the person is more likely to become infected with viruses or bacteria. The cancerous cells also overgrow the bone marrow. This forces other normal cells, like platelets out. Platelets are needed to help the blood clot. As a result, people with leukemia may bleed more easily.

  • Causes

    CML is almost always associated with a gene mutation. The gene is in a chromosome called the
    Philadelphia chromosome. This mutation occurs during life. It is not passed from parent to child. In most cases, the cause of the mutation is not known. Studies show that exposure to large doses of radiation is associated with development of CML. It may be found in survivors of nuclear accidents or of atomic bomb blasts. However, most patients with the condition have not been exposed to radiation.

  • Definition

    Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. The bone marrow makes abnormal blood cells including:

    • Myeloblasts—a type of white blood cell, fights infection
    • Red blood cells (RBCs)—carry oxygen
    • Platelets—makes blood clot, stops bleeding in cuts or bruises

    CML progresses gradually. It is often slow growing for many years. Over time, it may change into acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). This is a more aggressive type of leukemia. It progresses more rapidly and is more serious.

    Cancer occurs when cells in the body become abnormal. They divide without control or order. Leukemia is cancer of the white blood cells and their parent cells. Leukemia cells do not function normally. They cannot do what normal blood cells do. In this case, they can not fight infections. This means that the person is more likely to become infected with viruses or bacteria. The cancerous cells also overgrow the bone marrow. This forces other normal cells, like platelets out. Platelets are needed to help the blood clot. As a result, people with leukemia may bleed more easily.

    White Blood Cells
    White Blood Cells
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  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your liver and spleen will be examined for swelling. The doctor will also look for swelling in lymph nodes in the armpits, groin, or neck. You will likely be referred to an oncologist. This is a doctor who focuses on treating cancer.

    • Your bodily fluids and tissue may be tested. This can be done with:
      • Blood tests
      • Bone marrow aspiration
      • Bone marrow biopsy
      • Routine microscopic exam
      • Bone, blood marrow, lymph node tissue, or cerebrospinal fluid tests
      • Cytogenetic analysis
    • Your doctor may need pictures of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
      • Chest x-ray
      • CT scan
      • MRI scan
      • Ultrasound

  • Prevention

    There are no guidelines for preventing CML. It is possible that smoking is associated with CML. You may reduce your risk by not smoking.

  • Risk Factors


    The following factors increase your chance of developing CML:

    • Sex: male
    • Increased age
    • Exposure to atomic bomb radiation
    • Exposure to nuclear reactor accident
    • Smoking is the only lifestyle factor that has been linked to leukemia. Its association with CML is still unclear.

  • Symptoms

    These symptoms may also be caused by other, less serious health conditions.

    • Tiredness
    • Lack of energy
    • Fatigue
    • Unexplained weight loss
    • Night sweats
    • Fever
    • Pain or a feeling of fullness below the ribs
    • Bone pain
    • Joint pain
    • Reduced exercise tolerance
    • Enlargement of the liver or spleen
    • Unexplained bleeding or unusual bruising

  • Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Treatment options include: