Hairy cell leukemia (HCL) is a rare cancer of blood and bone marrow characterized by the abnormal production of B lymphocytes. B lymphocytes are the white blood that produces antibodies to combat infections. Hairy cell leukemia progresses slowly and does not become worse. The symptoms of hairy cell leukemia are tiredness, weakness, fever, frequent bleeding, and shortness of breath, unexplained loss of weight pain and many more. It is diagnosed by a complete blood test, bone marrow biopsy and many more. It can be treated with chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and surgery.
Is Hairy Cell Leukemia B cell Lymphoma?
Hairy cell leukemia is an uncommon chronic small B cell lymphoma. It involves spleen, bone marrow, and blood. Abnormal B cells are produced that possess abnormal delicate hair-like cytoplasmic ends. They accumulate in the blood leaving very less space for healthy blood cells. With the increase in abnormal B cells, there is the reduction in the number of healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This results in frequent infections easy bleeding and anemia.
There is no permanent cure for hairy cell leukemia. It has remission for years. This condition is more prevalent in men than women mostly in middle age or old age.
In Hairy cell leukemia, there is a mutation in the genes of the individual that induces the body’s stem cells to produce more and more abnormal white blood cells (B cells) in the blood.
Symptoms of Hairy Cell Leukemia –
- Unexplained weight loss
- Weakness or tired feeling
- Easy bruising and bleeding
- Feeling Short of breath
- Swelling of lymph nodes
- Excessive perspiration
- Pain in the bone especially below the ribs
- Enlargement of liver or spleen
- Frequent attacks of fever and infections
- Painless lumps in the neck, underarm, stomach or groin
Diagnosis of Hairy Cell Leukemia
Your physician will diagnose hairy cell leukemia through complete medical history, physical tests, and other tests. These tests for hairy cell leukemia include:
Blood Tests- complete blood test or CBC will detect the exact number of blood cells, platelets, lymphocytes. A peripheral blood smear is a specific test done to confirm hairy cell leukemia by detecting the exact structure of B cells.
Bone Marrow Biopsy- in this test, a hollow needle is inserted into the hipbone to take out a small piece of bone, bone marrow and blood to study under a microscope. This test is also known as bone marrow aspiration.
Treatment for Hairy Cell Leukemia
Hairy cell leukemia treatment depends on the number of hairy B cells, enlargement of spleen, your infections and number of relapses of the disease.
Hairy Cell Leukemia Is Treated By Following –
Chemotherapy- Chemotherapy for treating hairy cell leukemia focuses on the killing of cancer cells or ceasing the growth of abnormal B cells. Cladribine (Leustatin) and pentostatin (Nipent). They are given through IV. Most patients respond well with chemotherapy with complete or partial remission.
Immunotherapy- It is given to strengthen the immune system to combat hairy cell leukemia. Two common medicines used for this purpose are rituximab and interferon.
Surgery- Splenectomy or removal of the spleen may be required if it is causing pain or it bursts inside. This will help to reduce the count of the B-cells to a significant extent.
Complications of Hairy Cell Leukemia
Untreated cases of hairy cell leukemia may cause crowding of B cells in the blood that can result in serious complications such as-
Infections- with the remarkable reduction of healthy white blood cells, your body becomes prone to catch infections
Bleeding – low platelet count increase the
Anemia- decrease in red blood cells may lead to anemia.
Risk of Other Cancers – it can lead to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers.
Hairy cell leukemia is an uncommon chronic small B cell lymphoma, which is marked by the abnormal production of B lymphocytes. The symptoms include weariness, tiredness, weight loss, infections, pain below the ribs, and others as discussed above. Another cancer can develop as a complication of its untreated cases.