​Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

Chronic myelogenous leukemia is a cancer of the blood that affects the development of blood cells in your bone marrow. However, unlike acute myeloid leukemia, it is a slowly progressing cancer which may not give signs or symptoms for months or years.

While doctors do not know what starts the process of chronic myelogenous leukemia developing in a person, they do know what happens and how it affects the blood cell development. Two chromosomes that are responsible for controlling the cells in your body switch with each other and lead to the creation of a new chromosome which causes creation of too many white blood cells that do not grow fully and crowd out the healthy blood cells.

Risk factors typically associated with chronic myelogenous leukemia are:

  • Being an adult

  • Being a male

  • Having been previously treated for cancer and consequently exposed to radiation

  • Other instances of exposure to radiation

Common symptoms for acute myeloid leukemia are:

  • Bleeding

  • Fever

  • Shortness of breath

  • Weakness and fatigue

  • Ache in bones and joints

  • Swollen spleen

  • Loss of appetite and weight loss

  • Sweating at night

  • Pale skin ​

Consult your family doctor or a specialist working with the Oncology Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital if you exhibit any of the symptoms associated with chronic myelogenous leukemia. 
Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

To check for acute myeloid leukemia the following tests may be performed:

  • Physical exam

  • Blood test – a Complete Blood Count (CBC) can be used to indicate any abnormalities in your blood. Abnormalities may also be revealed by blood chemistry tests which measure your organ kidney function.  

  • Bone marrow biopsy: a needle is used to extract sample of your bone marrow (usually from the hip bone), for scrutiny in the laboratory

  • Tests to detect for presence of the abnormal chromosome

Based on these tests, your doctor will then determine at which stage of chronic myelogenous leukemia you may be based on the pervasiveness of the diseased cells. These stages are:

  • Chronic: The initial phase where the ratio of unhealthy cells is far less and response to treatment is also positive

  • Accelerated: Presence of unhealthy cells is growing and you may show more symptoms

  • Blastic: Unhealthy cells are high in proportion and the disease has become acute now, with possibility of becoming life threatening ​

The treatment for chronic myelogenous leukemia is determined based on your age, overall health and the stage of chronic myelogenous leukemia you have been diagnosed with. Normally, the treatment falls into two stages: Stage one in which the leukemia cells in your blood and bone marrow are killed; and stage two in which further treatment eliminates any remaining cancer cells as well as prevents a relapse. Common treatments for acute myeloid leukemia are:

  • Targeted therapy: use of targeted drugs to fight the production of unhealthy white blood cells. This is usually the first option of treatment

  • Chemotherapy – these are drugs that can be taken orally in a tablet form which aim to kill cancerous cells in your body. Often, chemotherapy is combined with other forms of treatment for chronic myelogenous leukemia.

  • Radiation therapy – this treatment uses high-energy rays or particles to target and eliminate cancer cells. Radiation therapy may also help to treat the pain that results from the damage to your bones which are caused by the growth of leukemia cells within your bone marrow.  

  • Biologic therapy: where your immune system is bolstered to fight the disease

  • Stem cell transplant: usually a last recourse due to complications that may arise afterwards, stem cell transplant replaces the abnormal cells in your bone marrow with healthy cells to restore the cycle of healthy blood cells development ​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.
The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.
The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.
Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage. 

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.