Hairy cell leukemia (HCL) is a rare form of cancer. It involves white blood cells called B lymphocytes. White blood cells protect the body from infection. HCL gets its name from the tiny hair-like projections that protrude from the surface of these cancer cells. Illness results from the accumulation of these cancer cells in the bone marrow and spleen.
White Blood Cells
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HCL usually develops slowly over time. Early on, there may not be any symptoms. The cancer cells eventually overgrow the bone marrow. This affects the growth of normal cells (eg, red blood cells and platelets) causing symptoms like:
Other symptoms may include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
HCL is a slow-growing cancer. It does not require aggressive treatment early on. As HCL progresses, treatment may include:
American Cancer Society
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
National Cancer Institute
BC Cancer Agency
Canadian Cancer Society
Hairy cell leukemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated June 20, 2012. Accessed September 4, 2012.
General information about hairy cell leukemia. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/hairy-cell-leukemia/Patient . Accessed September 4, 2012.
Hairy cell leukemia. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at: http://www.lls.org/#/diseaseinformation/leukemia/hairycellleukemia/ . Accessed September 4, 2012.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Igor Puzanov, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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