Chronic Myeloid Leukemia: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Receiving a diagnosis of any cancer is a nightmare for most patients. After times of uncertainty, you finally know what it is, but for most diagnosed patients, it is just the beginning of more uncertain times. After the diagnosis, you’ll get more and more tests, and, if possible, you’ve to start treatment immediately. Each year approximately 10,000 new cases of chronic myeloid leukemia, also called CML, are added in our country. Although it may not be the most common type of leukemia, it’s still important to know how you can recognize it and what you should do next to prevent severe complications.

Simple explanation of the anatomy of a stem cell

What Is Chronic Myeloid Leukemia?

CML is a type of blood cancer that starts in the bone marrow, which is the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are produced. In chronic myeloid leukemia, the bone marrow produces too many white blood cells, called myeloid cells, which are a type of white blood cell that helps fight infections in the body. These abnormal cells don’t function properly and can accumulate in the bone marrow and the bloodstream, which can interfere with the production of other healthy blood cells.

Causes of Chronic Myeloid Leukemia

The body producing too many white blood cells is caused by an acquired genetic mutation or by a change in myeloid stem cells that are growing in the bone marrow. The mutations aren’t hereditary and happen over time, which means people with CML don’t have the mutation since they’re born but acquire it later on in life. Abnormal (mutated) genes give cells other instructions than they’re used to before. In CML, they create a fused gene, called BCR-ABL. The BCR-ABL gene triggers a chain of events that leads to this form of leukemia. This is how it works:

  • The BCR-ABL gene provides new instructions to myeloid stem cells.
  • The stem cells produce an abnormal version of tyrosine kinase enzymes.
  • These enzymes help regulate cell growth and act like “on” and “off” switches.
  • However, the abnormal tyrosine kinase enzymes lack an “off” switch.
  • This leads to uncontrolled division and multiplication of myeloid stem cells in the bone marrow.
  • Over time, abnormal myeloid stem cells start producing excessive immature white blood cells (blasts).
  • The blasts accumulate in the bone marrow, making it difficult for the bone marrow to produce normal red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
  • This can result in fewer red blood cells, more platelets, and abnormal white blood cells.

Continue reading on the next page and discover, among others, how you can recognize this cancer.

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