What is Leukemia?
Leukemia is a type of blood cancer where the patient has a high number of immature or abnormal white blood cells. Blood cells are normally of three types, red blood cells which carry oxygen, white blood cells which fight infection and platelets which play a role in blood clotting. These cells are produced by the bone marrow from cells called stem cells.
In leukemia, a single WBC stem cell becomes abnormal and undergoes uncontrolled proliferation. This results in a large number of immature cells in the blood, which cannot function properly.
What is Hairy Cell Leukemia?
Hairy cell leukemia (HCL) is a type of leukemia where there are increased numbers of abnormal B-lymphocytes, a type of white blood cells. When examined under microscope, these abnormal cells appear to be covered with tiny hairs, giving the condition its name.
The development of hairy cell leukemia appears to have a genetic background. The disease is associated with certain genes that increase the patientís susceptibility to the cancer. These include mutations in the BRAF gene and overexpression of cyclin D1 protein.
The cancer cells are most commonly found in the bone marrow, liver and spleen. Hairy cell leukemia is more common in males as compared to females and usually occurs between the ages of 50 to 60 years.
Symptoms of hairy cell leukemia are similar to other blood cancers. These include weight loss, fatigue, easy bruising, anemia and recurrent infections.
Treatment of hairy cell leukemia involves chemotherapy, immunotherapy, surgery and targeted therapy. Accurate diagnosis is critical for effective treatment.