Cancer disease can always be a life threatening disease. There are some of the chronic type of cancers Hairy Cell Leukemia is one among them. The article Hairy Cell Leukemia has reliable information about this disease. It covers major topics like Diagnosis, Prognosis, Symptoms, Treatment, survival rate, Causes.

About Hairy Cell Leukemia

Hairy cell leukemia is a blood cancer which is rare and slow-growing, in this type of cancer your bone marrow produces too much B cells (lymphocytes), a type of white blood cell that fights infections.
These excess B cells are abnormal and look “hairy” under a microscope. There will be a increase in the number of leukemia, which will reduce healthy platelets, white blood cells and red blood cells are produced.
Hairy cell leukemia affects more males than females and occurs most often in middle-aged and older adults.
Hairy cell leukemia will be treated as a chronic disease because it will never go away completely, although treatment may lead to remission for years.

Leukemia Symptoms

Some people have no symptoms or signs of hairy cell leukemia, but a blood test for another disease or condition may inadvertently reveal Hairy Cell Leukemia.

At other times, people with hairy cell leukemia have signs and symptoms common to a number of diseases and symptoms are listed below:
• A feeling of fullness in your abdomen that can make it uncomfortable to eat more than a little at a time
• Weightloss
• Weakness
• Recurrent infections
• Easy bruise
• Tired

When to see a doctor

Try to consult your doctor if you have persistent signs and symptoms that worry you.

Leukemia Causes

It is not known what causes hairy cell leukemia. Doctors know that cancer occurs when cells develop errors in their DNA. In this case, mutations in DNA cause bone marrow stem cells to create too many white blood cells that are not functioning properly. Doctors do not know what is causing the mutations in DNA that lead to hairy cell leukemia.

Risk factors

Some factors may increase your risk of developing hairy cell leukemia. Not all research studies agree on which factors increase your risk of the disease.

According to some research studies the risk of Hairy Cell Leukemia increases with:

Radiation Exposure

People exposed to radiation, such as those working around x-ray machines or those who have received radiation treatment for cancer, may be at a higher risk of developing hairy cell leukemia, but the proper evidence is not found.

Exposure To Chemicals

Agricultural and Industrial chemicals may play a role in the development of hairy cell leukemia. However, some studies have found that this is not the case.

Exposure To Sawdust

Some studies have found a link between working with sawdust and wood and an increased risk of hairy cell leukemia. But this is not proved conclusively.

Ethnicity

Men of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry more frequently suffered from this disease other than men from other ethnic groups.

Complications

Hairy cell leukemia progresses very slowly and sometimes remains stable for many years. For will result in few complications of the disease to occur.
Untreated hairy cell leukemia that progresses can reduce healthy blood cells, resulting in serious side effects, such as:

Infections

The low number of white blood cells puts you at risk for infections.

Bleeding

The low platelet count makes it difficult for your body to stop bleeding if you get hurt. If your platelet count is moderately low, you may notice that you have bruises more easily. A very low platelet count may cause spontaneous bleeding of the gums or nose .

Anaemia

A low number of red blood cells means fewer cells are available to carry oxygen to all parts of the body. This is called anemia. Anemia causes fatigue.

Increased risk of second cancer

Some studies have shown that people with hairy cell leukemia are at increased risk of developing a second type of cancer. It is unclear whether this risk is due to the effect of hairy cell leukemia on the body or whether the risk comes from the drugs used to treat hairy cell leukemia.

The second cancers found in people treated for hairy cell leukemia include non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, among others.

Diagnosis

To diagnose Hairy Cell Leukemia, your doctor may recommend tests that include:

Physical Examination

By feeling your spleen – an oval shaped organ on the left side of your upper abdomen – your doctor can determine if it is enlarged. A hypertrophy of the spleen can cause a feeling of fullness in your abdomen that makes it uncomfortable to eat.
Your doctor may also look for enlarged lymph nodes that may contain leukemia cells.

Blood tests

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

Biopsy of the bone marrow

During a bone marrow biopsy, a little part of bone marrow is removed from the hip area. This sample is used to look for ciliated cell leukemia cells and to monitor your healthy blood cells.

Computerized tomography (CT)

A scanner shows detailed pictures of the inside of your body. Your doctor may prescribe a CT scan to detect enlargement of your spleen and lymph nodes.

Treatment

Treatment is not always necessary for people with hairy cell leukemia. Because this cancer advance to next stage very slowly and sometimes it will stop progressing, some people prefer to wait to treat their cancer only if it causes symptoms and signs. The majority of people with hairy cell leukemia should eventually be treated.
If your Hairy Cell Leukemia causes symptoms and signs, you may decide to seek treatment. There is no cure for Hairy Cell Leukemia. But the treatments are effective in putting hairy cell leukemia into remission for years.

Chemotherapy

Doctors consider chemotherapy to be the first line of treatment for hairy cell leukemia. The vast majority of people will experience partial or complete remission through the use of chemotherapy.

Drugs used in Chemotherapy are:

Cladribine

Treatment of hairy cell leukemia usually begins with cladribine. A continuous infusion of the drug will be given into a vein for several days.
Most people who receive cladribine experience a complete remission that can last several years. If your hairy cell leukemia comes back, you can get cladribine again. Side effects of cladribine may include fever and infection.

Pentostatin (Nipent)

Pentostatin causes remission rates similar to those of cladribine, but is administered according to a different schedule. People taking pentostatin receive infusions every two weeks for three to six months. Side effects of this drug may include infection, fever, and nausea.

Biological Treatments

Biological therapy attempts to make cancer cells more recognizable to immune system of your body. Once your immune system identifies cancer cells as intruders, it can begin to destroy your cancer

Types of Biologic Treatments:

Interferon

Currently, the role of interferon in the treatment of hairy cell leukemia is limited. You may receive interferon if you can not take chemotherapy or if the chemotherapy has not been working for you.
Most people experience partial remission with this treatment, which is taken for a year. Side effects include flu-like signs, such as fatigue and fever.

Rituximab (Rituxan)

Rituximab is a monoclonal antibody registered to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, although it is sometimes used in hairy cell leukemia.
If you cannot take chemotherapy or if the chemotherapy drugs did not work for you, your doctor might consider rituximab. Side effects of rituximab include infection and fever.

Surgery

Surgery to remove your spleen (splenectomy) could be an option if it is enlarged and cause pain or if your spleen breaks. Although elimination of the spleen can not cure hairy cell leukemia, a surgery can usually help to restore normal blood counts.
Splenectomy is not commonly used to treat hairy cell leukemia, but may be useful in some situations. Any procedure carries a risk of bleeding and infection.

Alternative Medicine

Some people with cancer find that alternative and complementary treatments can help them cope with the side effects of cancer treatment.
Alternative and complementary medicine can not cure your hairy cell leukemia, but it can offer helpful ways to cope after and during treatment. Talk to your doctor if you are interested in trying

Acupuncture

A practitioner inserts tiny needles into your skin at specific points during an acupuncture session. Acupuncture can help relieve the vomiting and nausea caused by chemotherapy.
Acupuncture can be safe when done by a experienced practitionr. You can ask your doctor who may be able to recommend a practitioner in your community.
Acupuncture is not safe if you are taking blood thinners or if you have low blood counts.

Aromatherapy

Here we use oils that give off pleasant scents, such as lavender. The oils can be massaged into your skin, added to the bath water or heated to release their odors.
Aromatherapy can help relieve stress. This method is safe, but oils applied to your skin can cause allergic reactions, so check the ingredients first.

Massage

A massage therapist uses his hands to knead your soft tissues and muscles. Massage can help relieve fatigue and anxiety. Many cancer centers have massage therapists who work with people with cancer.
People with cancer should not receive massage if they have low blood counts. Ask the massage therapist to avoid using deep pressure. A massage should not hurt, so talk if you feel pain during a massage.

Body-Mind Therapies

Mind-body therapies can help you relax and they can help reduce pain. Mind-body therapies include relaxation and meditation techniques.
Mind-body therapies are generally safe and advisable. A therapist can guide you the best suitable therapies or you can do them yourself.

Support

Doctors consider Hairy Cell Leukemia to be a chronic form of cancer because it never completely disappears. Even if you get a remission, you will probably need follow-up visits with your doctor to monitor your blood count and your cancer.
Knowing that your cancer could come back at any time can be stressful. You might consider:

Learn enough to feel comfortable making decisions about your care or treatment

Learn about your disease and its treatment to make you feel more comfortable making decisions about your treatment.Having a better idea of life after? from treatment and what to expect treatment can make you feel more in control of your disease. Ask your doctor or other health advisers for reliable sources of information to help you get started.

Connect With Other Cancer Survivors

Although family and friends provide an important support network during your cancer experience, they can not always understand what it is like to face this chronic disease. Other cancer survivors provide a unique support network.
Ask your doctor or health advisor which support organizations or groups in your surroundings can put you in contact with other cancer survivors. Organizations such as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the American Cancer Society offer online discussion forums.

Take Care Of Yourself

You can not control if your hairy cell leukemia is coming back, but you can control other aspects of your health.
Take care of yourself by eating a balanced diet with lots of vegetables and fruits and exercising regularly. A healthy body can more easily repel infections, and if you still need to be treated for cancer, you will be better able to cope with the side effects of the treatment.

Prepare Your Appointment

You will probably start by first consulting your doctor. If your doctor suspects that you may have hairy cell leukemia, he may refer to a doctor who treats bone marrow and blood related diseases (hematologist).

Because appointments can be brief, and because there is often a lot of ground to cover, it’s a good idea to be prepared. Here is some information to help you get ready and know what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

• Be aware of the restrictions before the appointment. By the time you make an appointment, try to ask anything you need to do in advance, such as diet restriction.
• Note down all the Signs you are experiencing, including those that may seem unrelated to the reason you planned the appointment.
• Write down the key personal information, including recent life changes or major constraints.
• Make a list of all the supplements, medications or vitamins you are taking.
• Consider taking a friend or family member along. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided during an appointment. Someone accompanying you may remember something you forgot or missed about.
• Write questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is less, so 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 the time is up. For hairy cell leukemia, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

What types of tests do I need?
Will I need treatment for my hairy cell leukemia?
If I do not have treatment, will my leukemia get worse?
If I need treatment, what are my options?
Will the treatment cure my Hairy Cell Leukemia?
What are the side complications of each treatment option?
Is there a treatment that seems the best for me?
How my daily life will be changed because of cancer treatment?
I have these other health problems. How can I better manage them together?
Are there any other things in diet and excercise I have to follow?
Do I have to see a specialist? How much should I pay, and will my insurance cover it?
Are there printed materials or other brochures that I can take with me? Which websites do you recommend?
In addition to the questions you have asked your doctor, do not hesitate to ask more questions during your appointment.

What To Expect From Your Doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being prepared to answer them may allow you to cover other points later that you want to address. Your doctor may ask some of these questions:

When did you start experiencing symptoms for the first time?
Have your signs been occasional or continuous?
How serious are your symptoms?
What seems to improve your symptoms?
What seems to make your symptoms worse?

Survival Rate

• Survival depends on many factors, so there is no exact measure to say how long you will live. It depends on your fitness level, individual condition and treatment.
• Statistics for this type of leukemia are more difficult to estimate than for other more common leukemias.
• Some statistics must be based on a small number of people. Remember, they cannot tell you what will happen in your individual case.
• Your doctor has more information about your own prospects (prognosis).

Survival Statistics for Hairy Cell Leukemia

• These days, doctors believe that most people with hairy cell leukemia can expect to have a normal lifespan. For detailed information, you will need to talk to your own specialist.
• Generally for people with hairy cell leukemia:
• Approximately 90 out of 100 (90%) will survive their leukemia for 5 years or more after being diagnosed
• Hairy cell leukemia usually develops slowly and can be kept under control for many years with treatment. You can hear these periods called remission. This is the period where the disease is not active. You have no symptoms and this does not appear in your blood samples.
• It may be possible to obtain a second remission with more treatment if hairy cell leukemia returns (relapses).
• A UK study published in 2005 examined patients with hairy cell leukemia and their relapse rate and response to treatment. The researchers found that:
5 years after diagnosis, hairy cell leukemia has returned to about 24 to 33 people out of 100 (24 to 33%)
Ten years after diagnosis, hairy cell leukemia has returned to approximately 42 to 48 people out of 100 (42 to 48%)
• If your leukemia returns after treatment, your doctor will give you a different treatment or the same treatment as before. The choice depends on the duration of your remission. If you have had a long remission, it is worth it to repeat the same treatment. If the remission was shorter, your specialist is more likely to want to try a different treatment.

What Affects Survival

Having a very low number of red blood cells (hemaglobin), platelet counts or white blood cell count (neutrophils) can affect your prognosis.
If you have swollen lymph nodes in your belly (abdomen), this can also affect your likely survival. Doctors call this lymphadenopathy.
People who have a complete response to treatment do better than those who have a partial response. In hairy cell leukemia, a complete response is when all the signs of leukemia have disappeared. A partial response means that there are still abnormal leukemia cells or other symptoms of leukemia.

Statistics

The terms 1-year survival and 5-year survival do not mean that you will only live for 1 or 5 years. They refer to the number of people still alive 1 year or 5 years after their cancer diagnosis.
Some people live longer periods than 5 years.