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Hairy Cell Leukemia

Hairy Cell Leukemia Causes

A defect in the DNA causes hairy cell leukemia, although it remains unknown what causes this defect. However, it is known and accepted that the following are not causes of hairy cell leukemia: ionizing radiation, tobacco, industrial chemicals and pesticides. Some studies show that gardening and farming activities have increased risk.

Hairy Cell Leukemia Definition

Hairy cell leukemia is a slow-growing cancer characterized by overproduction of B cells in the bone marrow. These B cells, called lymphocytes, are a kind of white blood cell needed to fight infection. The bone marrow is unable to produce other types of normal cells as well, including platelets that heal bleeding, and red blood cells that carry oxygen. Hairy cell leukemia is a rare disease, constituting only 2% of all leukemia cases.

Hairy Cell Leukemia Diagnosis

A suspicion of hairy cell leukemia will instigate doctors to probe an enlarged spleen, hairy cell leukemia cells in the blood, and decreased number of all blood cell types. Diagnostic procedures will consist of a physical exam, blood test, bone marrow biopsy, and CT scan.

Hairy Cell Leukemia Symptoms and Signs

Symptoms of hairy cell leukemia are quite vague, and are representative of other diseases. They include easy bruising, weight loss, weakness, fullness in the abdomen, fatigue, and recurring infections.

Hairy Cell Leukemia Treatment

Treatment is not necessary in all cases. Only when the symptoms interfere with an individual's daily life, or the platelet and white blood cell count fall to unsafe levels, do persons seek treatment. This type of cancer is a very slow progressing one, and some individuals would prefer to wait to treat the cancer if it even progresses. When it does, they may avail of the following treatment options: chemotherapy, biological treatments such as alpha interferon and Rituxam, as well as spleenectomy.

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