Hairy Cell Leukemia: Treatment, Symptoms and Prognosis of HCL

What is Hairy Cell Leukemia?

  • Hairy cell leukemia is a rare form of leukemia; in this blood cancer, large number of abnormal B cells are produced in the marrow of the bone. This B cells are lymphocytes, a form of white blood cells in the blood which fight the infection.
  • These abnormal and excess of B cells when seen microscopically look like hair. Therefore the term used is hairy cell leukemia. When the bone marrow produces excess number of these abnormal hairy cells, other white cells, red blood cells and platelets are decreased.
  • Hairy cell leukemia occurs more in male than in female. It occurs mostly in middle age and in elderly individual.
  • The cause of occurrence is uncertain. The disease is incurable, although there may be a period of remission.

Symptoms of Hairy Cell Leukemia

  • Many times the disease does not manifest any symptom in its primary stage. It is incidentally found while investigating for another disease.
  • Fatigue.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Repeated infection
  • Weight loss

Risk Factors for HCL

  • Exposure to radiation.
  • Exposure for a long time to industrial chemicals.
  • Persons working in sawdust industry and working with wood. The connection between both is inconclusive.

Also see Reason for Low White Cell in Kids

    Treatment of Hairy Cell Leukemia

    • There is no permanent cure for hairy cell leukemia.
    • The treatment is palliative.
    • Chemotherapy gives a temporary remission of the symptoms.
    • Interferon is a biological treatment. An attempt is made by the interferon in the body to recognize the cancer cell and destroy them.
    • Surgery to remove spleen is needed in some cases.
    • Alternative therapy may prove complementary. Yoga, massage, aromatherapy etc may be useful in some cases. They should be taken under the supervision of a physician.


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