Leukemia, hairy cell

Other names: Hairy cell leukemia

DEFINITION

Hairy cell leukemia is a rare, slow-growing cancer of the blood characterized by an overproduction of abnormal B cells in the bone marrow. These abnormal B cells appear "hairy" under a microscope and can crowd out healthy blood cells.

SYMPTOMS

CAUSES

The exact cause of hairy cell leukemia is unknown, but it is believed to result from mutations in the DNA that lead to the overproduction of abnormal B cells in the bone marrow.

RISK FACTORS

COMPLICATIONS

Complications of hairy cell leukemia may include infections, bleeding, and anemia. There is also an increased risk of developing a second cancer.

PREPARING FOR YOUR APPOINTMENT

TESTS AND DIAGNOSIS

Diagnosis of hairy cell leukemia may involve a physical exam, blood tests, bone marrow biopsy, and imaging tests like a CT scan.

TREATMENTS AND DRUGS

Treatment options for hairy cell leukemia may include chemotherapy, biological treatments, and splenectomy. These treatments aim to achieve remission and manage symptoms.

ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE

Complementary therapies like acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage, and mind-body techniques may help manage side effects of treatment but do not cure the disease.

COPING AND SUPPORT

Living with hairy cell leukemia involves regular monitoring and follow-up visits. Connecting with other cancer survivors and taking care of yourself can help cope with the uncertainties associated with the disease.

QUESTIONS

  1. What is hairy cell leukemia?

Hairy cell leukemia is a rare cancer of the blood characterized by an overproduction of abnormal B cells in the bone marrow.

  1. What are the symptoms of hairy cell leukemia?

Symptoms may include fatigue, easy bruising, weakness, weight loss, and a feeling of fullness in the abdomen.

  1. What are some risk factors for developing hairy cell leukemia?

Risk factors include exposure to radiation, chemicals, sawdust, and ethnicity (more common in men of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry).

  1. How is hairy cell leukemia diagnosed?

Diagnosis may involve physical exams, blood tests, bone marrow biopsy, and imaging tests like CT scans.

  1. What are some complications of hairy cell leukemia?

Complications may include infections, bleeding issues due to low platelet counts, anemia from low red blood cells, and an increased risk of second cancers.

  1. What are some treatment options for hairy cell leukemia?

Treatment options may include chemotherapy drugs like cladribine or pentostatin, biological treatments like interferon or rituximab, and splenectomy in certain cases.

  1. Can alternative medicine cure hairy cell leukemia?

No, alternative medicine cannot cure hairy cell leukemia but may help manage treatment side effects.

  1. How can patients cope with living with hairy cell leukemia?

Patients can connect with other cancer survivors for support and take care of themselves through healthy lifestyle choices.

  1. Is hairy cell leukemia more common in men or women?

Hairy cell leukemia affects more men than women.

  1. What is the main characteristic feature of B cells in hairy cell leukemia?

The abnormal B cells in hairy cell leukemia appear "hairy" under a microscope due to their unique appearance.