Chronic Myelogenous Leukaemia

Leukaemia is blood-based cancer, and Chronic Myelogenous Leukaemia is a form thereof. In short, what happens is that the production of white blood cells – of the type called Granylocytes, which are made from Myeloid stem cells – goes wrong, and the genes of two genes of two separate cells become merged into one cell; this results in a 'fusion' gene, which is progressively passed to other cells in your system. The cells containing this fusion gene are Leukaemia cells, and that is the short version of what Chronic Muelogenous Leukaemia is.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Most Leukaemia sufferers don’t actually have any symptoms prior to their being diagnosed; indeed, it is a condition which is most commonly discovered by chance. There are some symptoms which have been linked to Leukaemia, however, and they are similar to those of other cancers such as many forms of Lymphoma. These might include:

  • A loss of energy;
  • A lack of appetite;
  • Inexplicable weight loss; and
  • Fever.

At later stages the patient may suffer infections with unusual frequency, lose colour in the skin and begin to look pale, or bruise/bleed more easily than is normal. As with any cancer and serious ailment, always remember that only a trained medical professional can give you a correct diagnosis. If you think you may be suffering from Chronic Myelogenous Leukaemia, please seek the advice for a doctor.

Diagnosis

The first step in diagnosing Chronic Myelogenous Leukaemia is to have a so called ‘full blood count’ done; this basically consists of a doctor (a haematologist, or blood specialist) take a sample of your blood and sending it off for testing. Should the blood test shows that you have leukaemia cells present in your blood, the next step is for a bone marrow biopsy to be performed; this is where a small bone marrow sample is taken from your pelvis.

Treatment

The treatment a patient receives will vary depending on the phase which their leukaemia is in. The majority of Chronic Myelogenous Leukaemia sufferers are in the so called ‘chronic’ phase, where the leukaemia develops only very slowly, and may have be stable for a prolonged period of time. During this phase most patients are prescribed with a targeted tyrosine kinase inhibitor drug, such as Imatinib, and patients can usually carry on with life as normal.

Some patients will enter what is called an accelerated phase, where the leukaemia develops considerably more rapidly. Imatinib is often prescribed in this phase as well – though the dosage may differ, and it is only used if the patient has not previously been prescribed it in the chronic phase – however in some cases chemotherapy and/or a stem cell transplant is used. Finally, some patients will enter what is known as the ‘blast’ phase, where too many blasts (immature cells that are yet to develop into a useful cell) fill up the patient’s bone marrow; in this phase, chemotherapy is the most common treatment.

Many patients stay in the chronic stage for several years, indeed decades, and some never leave it, meaning that they can lead completely normal lives with the exception of taking Imatinib and having tests taken every once in a while to check for developments.

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