What is chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)?

Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow that begins when normal processes of cell division and growth are disrupted in the bone marrow, giving way to abnormal, uncontrollable growth of granulocytes (a type of white blood cell). White blood cells are produced to help the body fight infection, however, with the abnormal production of granulocytes, these cells do not mature and thus cannot properly function to protect the body. The high volume of unhealthy, immature granulocytes makes it harder for healthy blood cells and platelets to thrive. This disease commonly found in adults can lead to infections and viruses in the body. The phases of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) are:
  • Chronic phase. Fewer than 10% of the cells in the blood and bone marrow are blast cells. 
  • Accelerated phase.10% to 19% of the cells in the blood and bone marrow are blast cells.
  • Blastic phase. 20% or more of the cells in the blood or bone marrow are blast cells. 
Risk factors
  • Age. CML mostly occurs among children and teens.
  • Race. Caucasians are more commonly diagnosed with CML.
  • Gender. Men are more likely to develop CML than women.
  • Certain inherited syndromes may increase the risk of CML in patients, including those who have Down syndrome, or blood disorders such as polycythemia vera.
After a patient’s medical history and physical exam, a doctor may order additional tests to confirm the diagnosis of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). These tests include:
  • Blood tests can reveal the number of different types of blood cells, including the number of granulocytes. 
  • Bone marrow aspiration and/or biopsy are done by taking a small amount of bone marrow fluid (aspiration) and/or solid bone marrow tissue (core biopsy) and are examined for the number, size, and maturity of blood cells and abnormal cells. 
  • Cytogenetic tests look for changes in the chromosomes of cells, such as the Philadelphia chromosome, from samples of blood, bone marrow, or lymph nodes. 
  • Fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) uses special fluorescent dyes to look for changes in chromosomes that are found in blood or bone marrow samples.  
Treatment decisions are based on the stage of CML a patient has and is aimed to decrease signs and symptoms to help one live longer. Treatment options may include chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of these.
  • About 3,640 men are diagnosed with CML each year in the United States.
  • About 2,513 women are diagnosed with CML each year in the United States. 
  • About 1,105 patients die each year from CML in the United States. 
about chronic myelogenous leukemia

  • "Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 26 May 2016. Web. 07 July 2017.
  • "Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia." Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia. Cleveland Clinic, n.d. Web. 07 July 2017.
  • Hill, Michael. "Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia." Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. Johns Hopkins Health System, 04 Feb. 2016. Web. 07 July 2017.
  • "Leukemia." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 07 June 2017. Web. 07 July 2017.


From Our Blog: Blood Disorders - Coping and Choosing a Hematologist
Hematology is a branch of medicine that is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of these blood disorders. If you think you may be suffering from a blood disorder, it is important you visit your primary care physician. If they find any abnormalities in your blood work, they may refer you to a hematologist. Finding the right doctor is a very important process. Treatment for blood disorders can be lengthy, which is why it is a good idea to make sure you have a strong relationship with your hematologist from the beginning. Here are three tips for choosing a hematologist:
blood disorders - coping and choosing a hematolgist infographic


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