What is chronic myeloid leukemia?

Chronic Myeloid Leukemia

Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML): Overview

Leukemia is a type of cancer that causes your body to make too many blood cells, especially white blood cells. White blood cells are a part of your immune system, which helps protect you from infection and disease.

In chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), some of the young white blood cells don't mature like they should. Instead, they may cause symptoms as they begin to crowd out healthy blood cells in your bone marrow and blood. Chronic leukemia gets worse slowly, and you may have few or no symptoms for months or years. It is often discovered during a routine blood test.

There are many treatments for CML, including targeted therapy with tyrosine kinase inhibitors, chemotherapy, and stem cell transplants. A healthy diet, exercise, extra rest, and a strong support system can help you feel better. Many people also find that getting counseling or joining a support group helps them cope with their illness.

Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)

Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is a type of cancer that causes the body to produce large numbers of young white blood cells (myeloblasts). These myeloblasts, called leukemia cells, cannot fight infection very well.

When leukemia cells build up in the blood and bone marrow, there is less room for healthy blood cells. This can cause infections, anemia, and easy bleeding.

Most people with CML have a gene change (mutation) called the Philadelphia chromosome.

CML usually gets worse slowly. It is sometimes referred to as chronic myelogenous leukemia.

What are the symptoms of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)?

CML often doesn't cause symptoms. When it does, they may include tiredness (fatigue), a feeling of fullness below the ribs, fever, weight loss, and loss of appetite. If the disease gets worse, it may lead to infections, easy bruising or bleeding, and belly or bone pain.

How is chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) treated?

CML is treated right away. Treatments may include:

  • Targeted therapy with a tyrosine kinase inhibitor.
  • Stem cell transplant.
  • Medicines, including chemotherapy and corticosteroids.

A clinical trial may be a good choice.

For newly diagnosed people in the beginning stages of CML (chronic phase), targeted therapy with a tyrosine kinase inhibitor may work for many years. If they don't have a relapse, they may never need to have a stem cell transplant. But if they have a relapse or don't respond to targeted therapy, they may need other treatment, including a stem cell transplant.

For people who are diagnosed with CML in the later stages (accelerated or blast crisis phase), treatment may involve targeted therapy by itself. Or it may involve targeted therapy, chemotherapy, and other medicines before having a stem cell transplant.

How is chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask about your past health and any symptoms you've had. You'll have a physical exam and blood tests. You'll most likely have a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy. The doctor may do more tests to learn about the type of leukemia and how severe it is.

How can you care for yourself when you have chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Eat healthy food. If you do not feel like eating, try to eat food that has protein and extra calories to keep up your strength and prevent weight loss.
  • Get some physical activity every day, but do not get too tired.
  • Get enough sleep, and take time to do things you enjoy. This can help reduce stress.
  • Think about joining a support group. Or discuss your concerns with your doctor or a counselor.
  • If you are vomiting or have diarrhea:
    • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Choose water and other clear liquids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
    • When you are able to eat, try clear soups, mild foods, and liquids until all symptoms are gone for 12 to 48 hours. Other good choices include dry toast, crackers, cooked cereal, and gelatin dessert, such as Jell-O.
  • Avoid infections such as COVID-19, colds, and the flu. Wash your hands often. Get a pneumococcal vaccine. If you have had one before, ask your doctor whether you need another dose. Get a flu shot every year. Stay up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Do not smoke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

What is chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)?

Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many white blood cells. Young white blood cells grow abnormally, and they don't mature or die off as they should. These abnormal cells can crowd out normal blood cells and cause problems.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.