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Hairy cell leukemia (HCL): Causes-Symptoms-Diagnosis-Treatment


What is Hairy cell leukemia (HCL)?

Hairy cell sickness is a rare, slow-growing cancer of the blood during which your bone marrow makes too several B cells (lymphocytes), a kind of white somatic cell that fights infection.  These excess B cells are abnormal and appear "hairy" beneath a microscope.

What is Hairy cell leukemia (HCL)
Hairy cell leukemia 

Because the variety of leukemia cells increases, fewer healthy white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets are produced.  Hairy cell leukemia affects a lot more men than women, and it happens most typically in old or older adults.  furry cell leukemia is taken into account a chronic disease as a result of it should never fully disappear, though treatment will lead to a remission for years. 

  1. Blood

Medical term

Furry cell leukemia is an uncommon hematological malignancy characterized by an accumulation of abnormal B lymphocytes; it's typically classified as a subtype of chronic leukemia (CLL). Hairy cell leukemia makes up 2% of all leukemias, with fewer than 2,000 new cases diagnosed annually in North America and Western Europe combined.  Hairy cell leukemia (HCL) was originally delineated  as histiocytic leukemia, malignant reticulosis, or liquid body substance fibrosis in publications qualitative analysis back to the 1920s. The malady was formally named leukemic reticuloendotheliosis, and its characterization was significantly advanced by Bertha Bouroncle and colleagues at the Ohio State University faculty of medication in 1958. Its common name, that was coined in 1966,[2] comes from the "hairy" look of the malignant B cells beneath a microscope.

  1. Hairy cell leukemia (HCL) is a rare, chronic leukemia characterized by the presence of atypical circulating B lymphocytes, called hairy cells, in the peripheral blood. HCL is usually diagnosed in middle-aged adults, with a median age of diagnosis around 50. The disease is indolent but can cause serious complications such as organ damage or an increased risk of infection. Treatment is available and can put the condition into remission.

Types of leukemia

There are four main types of leukemia, which are determined by the type of white blood cell that is affected and how quickly the leukemia develops. The four main types of leukemia are:  acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).


The primary kinds of leukemia are:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). This is the maximum not unusual type of leukemia in young kids. ALL can also arise in adults.

  • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). AML is a not unusual form of leukemia. It occurs in children and adults. AML is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults.

  • Hairy cell leukemia (HCL). Hairy cell leukemia (HCL) is a rare, chronic leukemia characterized by the presence of atypical circulating B lymphocytes, called hairy cells, in the peripheral blood.

  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). This type of leukemia in particular impacts adults. An individual with CML may have few or no signs for months or years earlier than getting into a segment wherein the leukemia cells develop greater quickly.

  • Other kinds. Other, rarer kinds of leukemia exist, including hairy cell leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes and myeloproliferative problems.

Symptoms  Hairy cell leukemia (HCL)

The buildup of these leukemia cells in your blood, bone marrow, spleen, and liver effects however well your blood works in your body. This suggests could} Some folks don't have any signs or symptoms of hairy cell leukemia, however a biopsy for an additional sickness or condition may unknowingly reveal hairy cell leukemia.

Other times people with hairy cell leukemia experience signs and symptoms common to a number of diseases and conditions, such as:

  • A feeling of fullness in your abdomen that may make it uncomfortable to eat more than a little at a time

  • Weakness

  • Fatigue

  • Easy bruising

  • Recurring infections

  • Weight loss

When to see a doctor

Some people with hairy cell leukemia don’t have any symptoms. It is a slow growing cancer, and therefore the unhealthy cells, the hairy cell lymphocytes, might not displace healthy blood cells for a while. For these people, doctors at NYU Langone could advocate watchful waiting, throughout that they monitor the condition however don’t treat it.  build a briefing along with your doctor if you've got any persistent signs and symptoms that worry you.

Causes  Hairy cell leukemia (HCL)

Your blood is created of 3 types of cells: red blood cells, platelets, and white blood cells. every sort incorporates a specific job. Red blood cells carry atomic number 8 to your tissues. White blood cells fight infections in your body. Platelets type blood clots to prevent bleeding. All of them are made by your bone marrow. They begin out as stem cells. Stem cells are like blank slates. Over time, they will become any of the three types of blood cells.  Once you have hairy cell leukemia, an amendment (or mutation) in your genes causes your body to make too many of the white blood cells referred to as B lymphocytes. As a result, fewer of your blood stem cells grow into alternative styles of white blood cells, platelets, or red blood cells. and therefore the cancerous B lymphocytes aren't normal. They can't fight infection like healthy white blood cells do.  It's not clear what causes hairy cell leukemia. Doctors understand that cancer happens once cells develop errors (mutations) in their deoxyribonucleic acid. Within the case of hairy cell leukemia, mutations in the DNA cause your bone marrow stem cells to create too many white blood cells that don't work properly. Doctors don't understand what causes the deoxyribonucleic acid mutations that cause hairy cell leukemia.

Risk factors  Hairy cell leukemia (HCL)

Certain factors could increase your risk of developing hairy cell leukemia. Not all analysis studies agree on what factors increase your risk of the disease.

Some research indicates that your risk of hairy cell leukemia increases based on your:

  • Exposure to radiation. People exposed to radiation, such as those who work around X-ray machines and do not wear adequate protective equipment or those who received radiation treatment for cancer, may have a higher risk of developing hairy cell leukemia, but the evidence is inconclusive.

  • Exposure to chemicals. There are conflicting studies on the role of industrial and agricultural chemicals in hairy cell leukemia development.


Hairy cell leukemia progresses very slowly and sometimes remains stable for many years. For this reason, few complications of the disease occur.

Untreated hairy cell leukemia that progresses may crowd out healthy blood cells in the bone marrow, leading to serious complications, such as:

  • Infections. Reduced numbers of healthy white blood cells put you at risk of infections that your body might otherwise fight off.

  • Bleeding. Low platelet counts make it hard for your body to stop bleeding once it starts. If you have a mildly low platelet count, you might notice that you bruise more easily. Very low platelet counts can cause spontaneous bleeding from the nose or gums.

  • Anemia. A low red blood cell count means fewer cells are available to carry oxygen throughout your body. This is called anemia. Anemia causes fatigue.

Increased risk of second cancers

Some studies have found that individuals with bushy cell cancer could have an increased  risk of developing a second sort of cancer. It isn't clear whether or not this risk is because of hairy cell leukemia' impact on the body or if the chance comes from the medications wont to treat hairy cell leukemia. Second cancers found in people treated for hairy cell leukemia embrace non-Hodgkin' lymphoma, among others.

Hairy cell leukemia pathology outlines

Hairy cell leukemia is a B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia that originates in the lungs but can rapidly progress to any organ or tissue This aggressive cancer has an increased propensity to develop hairy cells which are easily seen under the microscope and appear like a small bunch of hairs on their side with blunt ends These "hairs" cause local inflammation and lead to additional problems such as fever weight loss shortness of breath night sweats bone pain and low blood count If a hairy cell becomes very large it will displace nearby healthy lung tissue resulting in poor oxygenation and regional dysfunction of the lung.

Hairy cell leukemia survival rate

Hairy cell leukemia is a chronic disease that affects about 2,000 people in the United States and Europe The condition occurs when hairy cells proliferate abnormally which grows into a tumor in areas of your body such as your blood or bone marrow These tumors trigger an abnormal immune response affecting the production of red blood cells and white blood cells You are more likely to develop hairy cell leukemia if you have another autoimmune disorder like systemic lupus erythematosus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Hairy cell leukemia markers

Hairy cell leukemia is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow which is rare in humans It can also be thought of as a form of chronic leukemia People with hairy cell leukemia have abnormal white blood cells that accumulate in their blood and bone marrow These abnormal cells resemble hair follicles (hence the name "hairy") Sometimes this condition develops into acute lymphoblastic leukemia or non-lymphocytic leukemia The presence of these immature blood cells (blast cells) are often referred to as blasts in oncology literature They infiltrate various organs such as bone marrow liver lung and urine epithelium.

Can you recover from hairy cell leukemia?

Hairy cell leukemia is a slow-developing cancer so it can take between five and 10 years to reach the stage where it is diagnosed By this time when you finally learn that you have HCL chances are high that the disease has spread and is affecting vital organs such as your bone marrow Serious side effects can occur from untreated hairy cell leukemia These include debilitating infections of your skin or mouth bleeding ulcers in your digestive tract internal bleeding and organ failure.

What virus causes hairy cell leukemia?

Hairy cell leukemia (HCL) is a type of leukemia caused by the human T-cell leukemia virus 3 (HTLV-3) which is classified as a retrovirus This means that it belongs to a group of viruses that contain an RNA genome and are encoded within the infected cell's DNA HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 are other members of this family; they cause contagious lymphocytic hepatitis also called Adult T-cell .

Hairy cell leukemia treatment

Hairy cell leukemia is a cancer that affects blood cells It gets its name from the hairy appearance of some of the abnormal white blood cells found in people with this condition The illness is considered an aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) In most cases hairy cell leukemia does not spread to other parts of the body on its own outside the bone marrow Instead it develops as a complication after treatment for another cancer has damaged healthy bone marrow stem cells (also called hematopoietic stem cells) When these well-functioning stem cells run out their place is taken by immature and poorly.

Diagnosis  Hairy cell leukemia (HCL)

If a GP suspects you've got leukemia, they will refer you to a doctor who specializes in blood disorders (hematologist). A medical specialist will organize blood tests to work out what number differing kinds of somatic cells there are in your blood sample. This can be called an origin count (FBC).  If you have hairy cell leukemia, it seems that your red blood cell and blood platelet counts are going to be low.  A sample of your bone marrow may additionally ought to be taken for testing, which can offer the hematologist additional elaborated info about your condition.  an ultrasound scan or a CT scan could be required to look at your spleen.

To diagnose hairy cell leukemia, your doctor may recommend:

  • Physical exam. By feeling your spleen — an oval-shaped organ on the left side of your upper abdomen — your doctor can determine if it's enlarged. An enlarged spleen may cause a sensation of fullness in your abdomen that makes it uncomfortable to eat.
    Your doctor may also check for enlarged lymph nodes that may contain leukemia cells.

  • Blood tests. Your doctor uses blood tests, such as the complete blood count, to monitor the levels of blood cells in your blood.
    People with hairy cell leukemia have low levels of all three types of blood cells — red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Another blood test called a peripheral blood smear looks for hairy cell leukemia cells in a sample of your blood.

  • Bone marrow biopsy. During a bone marrow biopsy, a small amount of bone marrow is removed from your hip area. This sample is used to look for hairy cell leukemia cells and to monitor your healthy blood cells.

  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan shows detailed images of the inside of your body. Your doctor may order a CT scan to detect enlargement of your spleen and your lymph nodes.

Careful analysis of hairy cell leukemia cells in your blood and bone marrow samples may reveal certain genetic and chemical changes that give your doctor an idea of your prognosis and play a role in determining your treatment options.

Bone marrow is the soft, spongy tissue located in the center of all bones. It is a small space where different kinds of blood cells are created and where vital resources are supplied to help these cells grow. Blood cells keep our body healthy and running smoothly. There are many different types of blood cells that are produced in the bone marrow. These include: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

  • Red blood cells carry oxygen and other materials to all parts of the body.

  • White blood cells are responsible for fighting infection.

  • Platelets are important because they help the blood to clot.

Your body produces billions of new blood cells each day in your bone marrow. This keeps you constantly supplied with fresh, healthy cells.

Treatment  Hairy cell leukemia (HCL)

The type of treatment your doctor chooses for you'll rely on:  what number healthy blood cells you have got vs. furry leukemia cells in your blood associate degreed bone marrow whether or not your spleen is larger than traditional whether or not you have an infection in your blood or different signs of leukemia (fevers, sweats, weight loss) what number times you've had HCL return once treatment Once your doctor incorporates a higher plan of however HCL affects you, they'll advocate one or additional of these:  If your HCL grows slowly and doesn't cause associate degreey symptoms, your doctor might decide you don't want treatment right away and advocate "watchful waiting" before beginning a treatment plan. Chemotherapy. This is often a mixture of powerful medications that kill cancer cells or create them grow additional slowly. There are 2 options: cladribine (Leustatin) and pentostatin (Nipent). They each are placed into your body through an IV. Most of the people with HCL who take therapy drugs get into complete or partial remission (when there aren't any signs of cancer in their blood). Immunotherapy. This uses your system to fight HCL. 2 common therapies that do this are interferon and rituximab (Rituxan). The drug moxetumomab (Lumoxiti) might be used if different treatments haven't helped. Surgery. If your spleen is painful or bursts, you may have to be compelled to have it removed (a splenectomy). This won't cure your HCL, however your blood count may return to normal. It's not continuously necessary to begin treatment for hairy cell leukemia instantly once the diagnosis is confirmed. As a result of this cancer progressing terribly slowly and typically doesn't progress at all, treatment will be delayed. -- You'll have regular follow-up appointments along with your doctor to observe for progression of the furry cell leukemia. If you experience signs and symptoms of the cancer, you might arrange to endure treatment. The bulk of individuals with hairy cell leukemia eventually want treatment.  There's no cure for hairy cell leukemia. However treatments are effective at putting hairy cell leukemia arrested for years.


Doctors consider therapy medication the initial line of treatment for hairy cell leukemia. A good majority of individuals can experience complete or partial remission through the employment of chemotherapy.

Two chemotherapy drugs are used in hairy cell leukemia:

  • Cladribine. Treatment for hairy cell leukemia typically begins with cladribine. You may receive either a continuous infusion of the drug or daily injections into a vein over several days.
    Most people who receive cladribine experience a complete remission that can last for several years. If your hairy cell leukemia returns, you can be treated with cladribine again. Side effects of cladribine may include infection and fever.

  • Pentostatin. Pentostatin (Nipent) causes remission rates similar to cladribine, but it's given on a different schedule. People who take pentostatin receive infusions every other week for three to six months. Side effects of pentostatin may include fever, nausea and infection.

Biological treatments

Biological therapy attempts to make cancer cells more recognizable to your immune system. Once your immune system identifies cancer cells as intruders, it can set about destroying your cancer.

Two types of biological treatments are used in hairy cell leukemia:

  • Rituximab. Rituximab (Rituxan) is a monoclonal antibody approved to treat non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, though it's sometimes used in hairy cell leukemia.
    If chemotherapy drugs haven't worked for you or you can't take chemotherapy, your doctor might consider rituximab. Your doctor may also combine cladribine and rituximab. Side effects of rituximab include fever and infection.

  • Interferon. Currently, the role of antiviral agents in bushy cell leukemia treatment is limited. You may receive interferon if therapy hasn't been effective or if you can't take chemotherapy. -- the general public expertise partial remission with interferon, that is taken for a year. aspect effects embody flu-like symptoms, similar to fever and fatigue. - alternative medication that focuses on the system is also suggested if your cancer returns or if it doesn't answer customary treatments. Clinical trials are learning new biological therapies and targeted therapies for treating hairy cell leukemia. 


Surgery to remove your spleen (splenectomy) might be an option if your spleen ruptures or if it's enlarged and causing pain. Though removing your spleen can't cure hairy cell leukemia, it can usually restore normal blood counts.

Splenectomy isn't commonly used to treat hairy cell leukemia, but it may be helpful in certain situations. Any surgery carries a risk of bleeding and infection.

  1. Bone marrow transplantation (BMT) transplant

  1. Cardiac rehabilitation and circulatory rehabilitation
  2. Psychological rehabilitation for cancer

Alternative medicine

No alternative medicines have been found to treat hairy cell leukemia. But alternative medicine may help you cope with the stress of a cancer diagnosis and the side effects of cancer treatment.

Talk to your doctor about your options, such as:

  • Music therapy

  • Art therapy

  • Exercise

  • Meditation

  • Relaxation exercises

  • Spirituality

Coping and support

Doctors consider hairy cell leukemia a chronic form of cancer because it never completely goes away. Even if you achieve remission, you'll likely require follow-up visits with your doctor to monitor your cancer and your blood counts.

Knowing that your cancer could come back at any time can be stressful. To help you cope, you might consider trying to:

  • Find out enough to feel comfortable making decisions about your care. Learn about your hairy cell leukemia and its treatment so that you can feel more confident about making decisions about your treatment.
    Having a better idea of what to expect from treatment and life after treatment can make you feel more in control of your cancer. Ask your doctor, nurse or other health care professional to recommend some reliable sources of information to get you started.

  • Connect with other cancer survivors. While friends and family give a necessary support network throughout your cancer experience, they can't continuously perceive what it's like to face cancer. Different cancer survivors provide a novel network of support.  raise your doctor or another member of your health care team regarding support teams or organizations in your community which will connect you with other cancer survivors. Organizations reminiscent of the yankee Cancer Society and also the cancer of the blood & cancer Society supply on-line chat rooms and discussion boards. 

  • Take care of yourself. You can't control whether your hairy cell leukemia comes back, but you can control other aspects of your health.
    Take care of yourself by eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and by exercising regularly. A healthy body can more easily fend off infections, and should you ever need to be treated for cancer again, you'll be better able to cope with the side effects of treatment.

Preparing for your appointment

You're likely to begin by 1st seeing your family doctor. If your doctor suspects you will have hairy cell leukemia, you may be noticed by a doctor who treats diseases of the blood and bone marrow (hematologist).  As a result, appointments may be brief, and since there's often plenty of ground to cover, it's a decent plan to be prepared. Here's some data to assist you make preparations and grasp what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

  • Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.

  • Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.

  • Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.

  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.

  • Consider taking a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.

  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For hairy cell leukemia, some basic questions to ask your doctor include the following:

  • Will treatment cure my hairy cell leukemia?

  • What are the side effects of each treatment option?

  • Is there one treatment you feel is best for me?

  • What kinds of tests do I need?

  • Will I require treatment for my hairy cell leukemia?

  • If I don't have treatment, will my leukemia worsen?

  • If I require treatment, what are my options?

  • How will cancer treatment affect my daily life?

  • I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?

  • Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?

  • Should I see a specialist? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover it?

  • Are there brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may allow more time later to cover other points you want to address. Your doctor may ask:

  • When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?

  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?

  • How severe are your symptoms?

  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?

  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?

General summary      

Hairy cell leukemia (HCL) is a type of leukemia caused by the human T-cell leukemia virus 3 (HTLV-3) which is classified as a retrovirus This means that it belongs to a group of viruses that contain an RNA genome and are encoded within the infected cell's DNA HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 are other members of this family; they cause contagious lymphocytic hepatitis also called Adult T-cell Leukemia/Lymphoma (ATL)

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 Hairy cell leukemia (HCL): Causes-Symptoms-Diagnosis-Treatment

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