Chronic myeloid (or myelogenous) leukemia (CML) is a slow growing form of cancer of the blood that also progresses gradually, making it difficult to treat. This cancer starts in certain blood-forming cells of the bone marrow. In this type of cancer, a genetic change occurs in the immature myeloid cells that produce red blood cells, platelets and most types of white blood cells except the lymphocytes. During this genetic change, the abnormal cells turn the other cells into CML cells. These leukemia cells grow and divide into more cancerous cells. These build up a stock of leukemia cells that overflow into the blood stream. These malignant cells travel in the blood to other parts of the body and in the process deposit themselves into other organs including the spleen. The affected organs do not manifest any symptoms till the leukemia has progressed over the years.
CML is a slow progressive cancer of the blood that does not reveal any signs till the later stages of the disease. A routine blood test may show up abnormal blood counts that could lead to further tests and diagnosis. When symptoms do occur, they show up when the cancer has progressed. Some of the common signs of CML include fever, weight loss, itching of the body, pain in the bones, paleness, excessive sweating at night, abdominal swelling or discomfort as a reason of an enlarged spleen, a feeling of fullness in the stomach and unexplained bleeding.
Chronic Myeloid Leukemia or CML can occur at any age, but it is more common in adults over the age of 50. This age group accounts for nearly 70 per cent of all CML cases. CML occurs more frequently in men than in women and is rare in children.
Treatment of CML involves chemotherapy with targeted drugs, radiation therapy, biological therapy and stem cell transplant.
Sometimes you may go into a period of remission where it appears that the leukemia has gone. However, you can be in remission for many years before it relapses. Post treatment care and constant follow-ups are crucial in managing the cancer.
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