What Is Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia or CML?
There are many different types of leukemia, one of which is chronic myelogenous leukemia. This is one of the less common types. Because it is "chronic" it is slow to progress, compared to acute forms. Myelogenous, meanwhile, refers to the cell type that the cancer affects. So what is chronic myelogenous leukemia or CML? Essentially, there are two types: myeloid and granulocytic. Both are more common in adults and are very rare in children.
What Is Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia or CML - Symptoms:
The most common signs and symptoms of CML include:
- Feeling tired
- Bleeds easily
- Inexplicable weight loss
- Fullness or pain on the left side under the ribs
- Loss of appetite
- Night sweats
- Pale skin
What Is Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia or CML - Treatment:
The goal of treatment is to remove the BCR-ABL gene, which is the mutated gene that causes the production of diseased blood cells. It is rare for any type of treatment to be able to completely eradicate the cancer. Treatment options include:
1. Targeted drugs, including Ponatinib (Iclusig), Bosutinib (Bosulif), Nilotinib (Tasigne), Dasatinib (Sprycel), Imatinib (Gleevec). These drugs block the tyrosine kinase protein secreted by the BCR-ABL gene. This is usually the first line of treatment. If the patients' condition does not improve, they may be given omacetaxine (Synribo) instead. All targeted drugs come with significant side effects. Usually, patients will have to continue to take these drugs for life, even if their blood tests show remission, because it is not known if the cancer would otherwise recur.
2. Bone marrow transplants, which is the only potential full cure for CML. Usually, it is only offered to those who are non-responsive to other treatments, because the procedure is incredibly risky, with high complication and mortality rates. Chemotherapy drugs first kill the existing bone marrow cells. New cells are then transfused into the bloodstream, forming healthy cells.
3. Chemotherapy, which is usually offered alongside other CML treatments. It is usually provided as an oral drug. Side effects do exist, depending on the drug.
4. Biological therapy, whereby the body's own immune system is encouraged to fight the cancer. Interferon is the most commonly used drug, which is a synthetic immune system cell. Some research studies suggest that this could slow down leukemia cell growth. It is usually given to those who cannot take other drugs, such as those who are pregnant, or if other treatments haven't worked. Biological therapy does come with significant side effects.
5. Clinical trial, whereby new and emerging drugs are tested to see whether they could potentially offer a cure, or better treatment, in the future. Doctors know which clinical trials exist, and will inform patients of these.
6. Alternative medicine, which does not cure or even treat CML, but does help people manage the stresses of having this condition, as well as making the treatment's many side effects more bearable. The most common alternative medicine options include aromatherapy, acupuncture, meditation, massage, and relaxation techniques.
Unfortunately, in many cases, CML is not cured, and the patient eventually dies.
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