What is Chronic Myeloid Leukemia?

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  • Written By: Chinne01
  • Edited By: Lindsay D.
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2018
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Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is a cancer. This particular type of cancer invades the blood only after it has formed in the cells and bone marrow of the body. It is believed that abnormal chromosomes, or what doctors now call the Philadelphia chromosome, are at least partially to blame. Chronic myeloid leukemia is a slow progressing cancer and often does not display any symptoms for even years. While the cancer is slow growing, it is possible for it to reach other organs. Once this happens chronic myeloid leukemia has a tendency to spread quite quickly.

Predominantly, this is a cancer that is seen more in adults. Children are not immune to chronic myeloid leukemia but it is very rare. Most cancers will originate in a specific part of the bone and as they metastasize they will affect the bone marrow. This is not the case with chronic myeloid leukemia, or any other type of leukemia for that matter.


There are a few different types of leukemia, acute, chronic, and acute lymphocytic and chronic lymphocytic. It is important to know and understand the differences between them in order to properly diagnose and treat. Any cells that originate from bone marrow can develop into leukemia. A normal cell will mature and then die off, however leukemia cells don't die, but rather accumulate and take over healthy bone marrow cells. The result is usually that these leukemia cells invade the bloodstream and attack what were once healthy organs.

With acute leukemia, bone marrow doesn't grow the way that it is supposed to. The prognosis for this type of leukemia is favorable with treatment, but without it the average life span is about three months. Chronic leukemia sees cells that never grow to their potential, so they are abnormal. They will crowd out healthy cells. While the outlook is promising, it is more difficult to treat this leukemia when compared to acute leukemia. To properly classify leukemia, the bone marrow type must be determined as well.

Treatment for chronic myeloid leukemia will vary according to the individual, as well as how far the cancer has advanced. Their age and overall health would also be assessed. The treatment that offers the most hope is a stem cell transplant. For others, there are medications that are used as a front line treatment approach. When drugs are used it is very typical for physicians to monitor closely the patient’s blood counts, usually at intervals of every three months.



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