Hairy cell leukemia

Alternative Names

Leukemic reticuloendotheliosis; HCL; Leukemia – hairy cell

Definition of Hairy cell leukemia

Hairy cell leukemia (HCL) is an unusual cancer of the blood. It affects B cells, a type of white blood cell (lymphocyte).

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

HCL is caused by the abnormal growth of B cells. The cells look “hairy” under the microscope because they have fine projections coming from their surface.

Signs and tests

During a physical exam, the doctor may be able to feel a or liver. An may be done to evaluate this swelling.

Treatment

Treatment may not be needed for the early stages of this disease. Some patients may need an occasional blood transfusion.

Expectations (prognosis)

Newer chemotherapy treatments have greatly improved the survival of patients with hairy cell leukemia. Most patients with hairy cell leukemia can expect to live 10 years or longer after diagnosis.

Review

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; James R. Mason, MD, Oncologist, Director, Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program and Stem Cell Processing Lab, Scripps Clinic, Torrey Pines, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 9/6/2010

Bone marrow aspiration
Auer rods
Hairy cell leukemia - microscopic view
Formed elements of blood
Enlarged spleen

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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