Hairy cell leukemia (HCL) is a rare type of blood and bone marrow cancer that affects the B lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that make antibodies to fight infections. The body produces a surplus of abnormal B lymphocytes that don’t function properly. These abnormal cells can take up the space of healthy B lymphocytes, which can weaken the immune system and make the person susceptible to infections. Symptoms of HCL may include any of the following:
• Easy bruising or bleeding
• Excessive sweating (especially at night)
• Feeling full after eating only a small amount
• Recurrent infections and fevers
• Pain or fullness in the upper left belly
• Swollen lymph glands
• Weight loss
HOW IS HAIRY-CELL LEUKEMIA DIAGNOSED?
During a physical exam, the doctor may be able to feel a swollen spleen or liver. An abdominal CT scan or ultrasound may be done to evaluate this swelling. A complete blood count usually shows low levels of white and red blood cells, as well as platelets. Blood tests and a bone marrow biopsy can detect hairy cells
HOW IS HAIRY-CELL LEUKEMIA TREATED?
Treatment for the same includes the regular cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. In some cases, surgery may also be suggested. There are also certain kinds of medicines available like Interferon and Rituxan that help in combatting this problem.
DID YOU KNOW?
Hairy cell leukemia affects more men than women and it occurs most commonly in middle-aged or older adults. Hairy cell leukemia is considered a chronic disease because it may never completely disappear, although treatment can lead to a remission for years.