What you should know about hairy cell leukemiaHairy cell leukemia is indeed a very rare kind of leukemia and it is a cancer for the bone marrow and blood. It is very rare that the cancer can get worse and it is referred to as hairy cell leukemia since the leukemia cells have a hairy look when observed under a microscope. The bone marrow normally makes the blood stem cells or immature cells which develop over time to make mature blood cells. The blood stem cell might become lymphoid stem cell or myeloid stem cell. Usually the myeloid stem cells normally develop to form various mature blood cells which include:

  • Red blood cells which ferry materials such as oxygen to the body tissues
  • White blood cells which fight diseases and infection
  • Platelets which stop bleeding and make the blood to clot

The lymphoid stem cell usually develops to form lymphoblast cell and any one of the three kinds of white blood cells- lymphocytes.

  • B lymphocytes which make antibodies for helping fight infections
  • T lymphocytes which assist B lymphocytes in making antibodies which fight infections.
  • Natural killer cells which attack viruses and cancer cells

What you should know about hairy cell leukemia

A blood cell usually undergoes via various steps before finally becoming a platelet, white blood cell or a red blood cell. In the case of hairy cell leukemia, numerous blood stem cells usually develop to lymphocytes which are actually abnormal and don’t develop to become healthy cells. Alternatively, they are called the leukemic cells. These cells tend to build up in bone marrow and the blood thereby leaving very little room for the healthy and useful white blood cells, platelets and red blood cells. In turn, this might result in an infection, easy bleeding and anemia. Some leukemia cells tend to collect near the spleen thus making it swell.

Risk factors for hairy cell leukemia

Just like other types of cancers, there are various risk factors that increase one’s vulnerability of getting hairy cell leukemia. For instance, doctors have found that age and gender might increase a person’s risk of getting hairy cell leukemia. The disease is more common among older men but what actually causes it is not known.

Symptoms and treatment

The possible signs that can alert you that you have hairy cell leukemia are such as infections, tiredness and feeling some pain below your ribs. Other symptoms include feeling tired and weakness, frequent infections or fever, easy bleeding or bruising, breath shortness, weight loss for apparently no known reason, feeling fullness or pain below the ribs and even painless lumps in stomach, groin, neck or underarm. Several tests will be conducted to diagnose the disease and there are five standard treatments used which include watchful waiting, chemotherapy, biologic therapy and surgery as well as the patient participating in clinical trials.