Hairy cell leukemia is a rare, slow-growing cancer of the blood in which your bone marrow makes too many B cells (lymphocytes), a type of white blood cell that fights infection. These excess B cells are abnormal and look "hairy" under a microscope. As the number of leukemia cells increases, fewer healthy white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets are produced.
Hairy cell leukemia affects more men than women, and it occurs most commonly in middle-aged or older adults.
Doctors aren't sure what causes hairy cell leukemia, and there is no cure. Hairy cell leukemia is considered a chronic disease because it may never completely disappear, although treatment can lead to a remission for years.
Mar. 21, 2012
- Abeloff MD. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone; 2008:2309.
- Hoffman R, et al. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2009. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-443-06715-0..X5001-8--TOP&isbn=978-0-443-06715-0&uniqId=230100505-56. Accessed Feb. 2, 2012.
- Lichtman MA, et al. Williams Hematology. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2010. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=69. Accessed Feb. 2, 2012.
- Hairy cell leukemia treatment (PDQ): Patient version. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/hairy-cell-leukemia/patient. Accessed Feb. 2, 2012.
- Grever MR, et al. Modern strategies for hairy cell leukemia. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2011;29:583.
- Rituxan (prescribing information). South San Francisco, Calif.: Genentech Inc.; 2009. http://www.rituxan.com/index.html. Accessed Feb. 2, 2012.
- Integrative medicine & complementary and alternative therapies as part of blood cancer care. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. http://www.lls.org/#/resourcecenter/freeeducationmaterials/treatment/integrativemedandcam. Accessed Feb. 2, 2012.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.