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Hairy cell leukemia

  • Overview


    White blood cells play a crucial role in fighting off germs. However, Hairy Cell Leukemia, a type of cancer, affects a kind of white blood cell known as B cells or B lymphocytes. In this condition, the body produces excessive abnormal B cells, which appear “hairy” under a microscope.

    These leukemic cells accumulate in the body and cause various symptoms. While the disease usually progresses slowly, a more aggressive variant called the Hairy Cell Leukemia Variant is considered a separate type of cancer.

    Typically, chemotherapy is the standard treatment for Hairy Cell Leukemia. However, immediate treatment may not be necessary, and the doctor may decide to defer it.

  • Symptoms


    Hairy cell leukemia could be asymptomatic and can be detected incidentally through a blood test for another ailment. However, when it does cause symptoms, they may include a sense of fullness in the abdomen that may make it difficult to eat more than a small amount at a time, fatigue, easy bruising, recurring infections, weakness, and unintentional weight loss.

  • When to see a doctor


    If you’re concerned about ongoing symptoms, scheduling an appointment with your healthcare provider is always a good idea. They’ll be able to provide you with the guidance and support you need to ensure you’re feeling your best.

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  • Causes


    The exact cause of hairy cell leukemia is currently unknown. Hairy cell leukemia originates in the white blood cells, responsible for combating germs in the body. B cells are a specific type of white blood cell affected by hairy cell leukemia.

    The condition occurs when there are changes in the DNA of B cells. DNA contains instructions that govern how cells behave. These changes cause the B cells to produce abnormal, nonfunctional cells. Unlike healthy cells, these abnormal cells do not die as part of the natural cell life cycle, resulting in overcrowding of the bone marrow and other organs by malfunctioning B cells.

    The accumulation of nonfunctional B cells can cause various symptoms and complications. For instance, the enlarged spleen, liver, and lymph nodes may be caused by the excess cells. Furthermore, the lack of space for healthy blood cells can lead to frequent infections, easy bruising, and exhaustion.

  • Risk factors


    Hairy cell leukemia is more commonly diagnosed in older individuals, typically in their 50s or 60s, but can occur at any age. It is rare in children. Additionally, while hairy cell leukemia can affect anyone, it is more frequently observed in males.

  • Prevention


    There is a rare form of blood cancer called hairy cell leukemia that affects the bone marrow and causes excessive hair-like projections on blood cells. Unfortunately, there is no known method for preventing this disease from occurring. However, early detection and treatment can greatly impact a patient’s chances of recovery. Individuals with a family history of hairy cell leukemia should undergo regular check-ups and screenings to detect any signs of the disease. It may also be helpful to avoid exposure to harmful chemicals, radiation, and toxins to decrease the risk of developing hairy cell leukemia. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular exercise and a balanced diet, can also contribute to overall cancer prevention.

  • *Please note that the information provided in the article is for reference purposes only. It is essential to consult a doctor before applying any of the suggestions mentioned.

Content Details

Medical info from Mayo Clinic, for reference only. Visit Hoan My for better advice.

Last updated on: 14/08/2023