Hairy cell leukaemia or HCL is a rare type of blood and bone marrow cancer, which affects your B lymphocytes or the white blood cells that form antibodies to fight off the infections. In HCL, your body produces an excess of B lymphocytes (which have a hairy appearance under the microscope)that do not function normally. These cells use up the space meant for the healthy B lymphocytes, thereby weakening your immune system and making you prone to several infections.
Blood and bone marrow
You may not necessarily have symptoms with HCL; however, some symptoms associated with later stages of the disease include:
Depending on how your HCL is progressing or impacting your life, the doctor may decide any one of the following treatments:
Although the evidence is inconclusive, some factors likely to increase the risk of HCL include:
The stage of cancer implies how far it has progressed. However, there is no widely acknowledged staging system for hairy cell leukaemia.
HCL can be diagnosed in several ways:
Prevention of HCL is a topic of ongoing research. However, you can try to prevent this condition by avoiding exposure to chemicals, especially those used in farming, and other radiations like x-rays.
Hairy cell leukaemia is a rare and slow-progressing subtype of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).
There are two variants of HCL:
In old publications, Hairy cell leukaemia (HCL) was also described as malignant reticulosis, histiocytic leukaemia, or lymphoid myelofibrosis.
The differential diagnosis for HCL includes:
HCL is a chronic condition that may not completely disappear with treatment. Nevertheless, it grows very slowly, and appropriate treatment can help increase life span.
The prognosis of hairy cell leukaemia largely depends on factors like the number of healthy cells present in the blood and bone marrow, an enlarged spleen, the severity of symptoms, and how the HCL responds to treatment.
Hairy cell leukaemia resembles chronic leukaemia when it comes to its prognosis. Often, a timely treatment may result in long-term cures, with a survival rate between 84% to 94%. That being said, sometimes, HCL (especially the refracted or recurred one) may not respond to the treatment or may recur after the treatment.
Your treatment and associated recovery usually depend on the rate at which the abnormal leukaemia cells develop and increase in number. Your symptoms may subside, and the cancer may stop progressing with appropriate treatment. However, you may need to go through the treatment again if your cancer progresses or symptoms return.
Hairy cell leukaemia usually progresses very slowly and may even remain stable for several years, and that is why it may not show severe complications. However, it may cram the healthy cells in the bone marrow once it progresses, causing further complications like anaemia, various infections, and bleeding.
Our bone marrow produces blood stem cells, which eventually mature into myeloid or lymphoid blood stem cells. Myeloid stem cells form red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets, while lymphoid stem cells grow into B lymphocytes, T lymphocytes, and natural killer cells which form the primary defence system of our body.
In hairy cell leukaemia, an abnormally large number of blood stem cells develop into improper B lymphocytes or leukaemia cells, leaving a tiny room for other healthy blood cells to grow. This results in pancytopenia, which means lowered red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, causing further complications.
Untreated hairy cell leukaemia may cause splenomegaly and bone marrow failure, causing complications like:
People with HCL may have an increased risk of secondary malignancies, either through the disease itself or as a side effect of immunosuppressive therapies. That is why they are likely to get skin cancer (melanoma or non-melanoma) which forms about 33 to 36% of secondary malignancies.
If you are facing any similar signs or symptoms please contact the Nanavati Max team to schedule an appointment at : +91 22 6836 0000