Leukemia is a cancer of blood and bone marrow, in which there is proliferation of white blood cells. Hairy cell leukemia is a rare variant of leukemia, which causes chronic, abnormal proliferation of lymphocytes (B-cells). These abnormal cells have hairy projections under a microscope, thus the name hairy cell leukemia. There are elevated levels of leukemic cells in blood and bone marrow and reduced levels of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. This imbalance in blood cells makes the body prone to infection, bleeding disorders and anemia.
What is The Survival Rate for Hairy Cell Leukemia?
Hairy cell leukemia has good response to treatment and there is remission of cancer with a 95% chance of recovery from the disease. Hairy cell leukemia has positive prognosis with an excellent survival rate. There is no permanent treatment for hairy cell leukemia, so it is an incurable disease. However, with chemotherapy the disease is shown to undergo a 10 year remission. Despite lacking a permanent cure, the survival rate of patients is good and the patients continue to live a normal and healthy life with long term monitoring of the disease.
The data regarding long term outcomes of the disease is limited due to restricted studies for the long term survival rate of the disease. The data is also limited as the disease is rare and the data collection and studies are minimal. Promising results have been found in patients with chemotherapy related to pentostatin and there have been a high survival rate in these patients. Superior treatment options for optimal long term survival rates are low due to sparse long term statistics. Further studies are underway and hopefully in future there will be advancement in treatment options for a longer survival rate.
What Are The Causes And Symptoms Of Hairy Cell Leukemia?
Hairy cell leukemia is commonly seen in males with a male to female ratio of 5:1 and usually seen in adults in the age group of 40 to 70 years. The cause of hairy cell leukemia is yet unknown. It is thought to be a result of aberration in DNA responsible for stem cell production for lymphocytes in bone marrow. This aberration leads to production of excessive, immature and abnormal lymphocytes in the blood and bone marrow. The cause of this aberration in DNA is also unknown.
The progression of hairy cell leukemia is a very slow process and is often not diagnosed in the early stages of the disease and is mostly diagnosed incidentally in a routine blood test. Some of the people may present with symptoms of lethargy, fatigue, recurring fever and infections, easy bruising, early satiety, weight loss, tenderness/enlargement of spleen (due to collection of leukemic cells), hepatomegaly, lymphadenopathy, shortness of breath, excessive sweating, bone pain and red spots on the skin.
What Is The Diagnosis And Treatment For Hairy Cell Leukemia?
Hairy cell leukemia may be diagnosed either with blood tests, which include complete blood count (CBC) and peripheral blood smear or bone marrow tests including bone marrow aspiration and bone marrow biopsy. A CT scan or an ultrasound may also be opted for to look for signs of splenomegaly, hepatomegaly and lymphadenopathy. The diagnosis is confirmed with immunophenotyping (flow cytometry) to look for antigens related to hairy cell leukemia.
Hairy cell leukemia is a slow progressing cancer and may not require immediate treatment. Overall, treatment decision is based on symptomatic cytopenias, increasing splenomegaly, disease progression or other complications. In about 10% of the patients, no treatment is required. Those who require treatment are treated with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy includes drugs such as cladribine and pentostatin intravenously. Other immunotherapeutic drugs include interferon and rituximab. Generally, cladribine and pentostatin are the first line drugs and have been shown to be really effective. Rituximab along with either cladribine or pentostatin has shown complete remission in initial relapse cases. In multiple remissions, after all therapeutic options have exhausted, interferon-alpha and splenectomy are the last resort.
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