Symptoms and treatment of chronic myeloid leukaemia

Cancer can affect any part of your body. Chronic myelogenous leukaemia refers to the type of cancer that attacks the bone marrow and blood cells. This is also known as chronic myeloid leukaemia. This type of cancer usually affects elderly people. In cases of chronic myelogenous leukaemia, genetic abnormalities in the blood cells cause chromosomes to switch places and create abnormal connections. The white blood cells created as a result of this are known as leukaemia cells. There is no known cause for this chromosomal abnormality but being exposed to radiation can increase a person’s risk of suffering from this condition.

There are three stages of chronic myelogenous leukaemia; the chronic phase, accelerated phase, and blastic phase. Progression of the disease from one stage to another is usually very slow. Of these, the chronic phase is the first stage of cancer and is the easiest to treat. Most people do not show any symptoms of cancer in this stage. In the second phase, the number of unhealthy white blood cells increases. Symptoms that begin appearing in the accelerated phase include:
• Fatigue
• Persistent fever
• Easy bruising
• Excessive sweating at night
• Shortness of breath
• Unexplained weight loss
• Loss of appetite
• Swelling and pain on the left side of the abdomen
• Pain in the bones
• Stroke
• Change in vision
• Ringing sensation in the ears
• Prolonged erections

In the third phase or blastic phase, the leukaemia cells begin to crowd out healthy white blood cells and platelets. Some of the symptoms of this third stage of chronic myeloid leukaemia are:
• Infection
• Bleeding
• Bumps or tumours on the skin
• Swelling of the glands

The earlier cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. Hence if you notice these symptoms persisting for a while without any other cause, you should consult a doctor. To confirm a diagnosis, your doctor will need a blood test to calculate your complete blood count, a bone marrow test, a FISH test, Polymerase chain reaction test and an ultrasound or CT scan.

Since chronic myelogenous leukaemia cannot be cured, the goal of treatment here is to try and maintain a balance of healthy white blood cells in the blood stream. A type of medicine known as tyrosine kinase inhibitors is usually the first step of treatment for this disease. These drugs slow down the rate of leukaemia cell production. Other forms of treatment commonly prescribed include chemotherapy and biologic therapy.

Stem cell treatment may also be used in cases of chronic myeloid leukaemia. This is typically advised only if other forms of treatment do not help the patient.Stem cell treatment involves harvesting new stem cells from a donor and then injecting them into the patient’s bone marrow.