Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML): Introduction
What is cancer?
Your body is made up of tiny building blocks called cells. Normal cells grow when
your body needs them, and die when your body doesn't need them any longer. Cancer
starts when cells in the body change and grow out of control. Abnormal cells grow
even though your body doesn’t need them. In most types of cancer, the abnormal cells
grow to form a lump or mass called a tumor.
What is leukemia?
Leukemia is different from most other types of cancer. Leukemia is cancer that starts
in the bone marrow. This is where new blood cells are made. Leukemia cells are early
forms of blood cells, most often white blood cells. When a person has leukemia, the
body makes too many abnormal blood cells. Leukemia cells don't often form tumors.
But they can travel with the blood all over the body. That means leukemia can affect
organs anywhere in the body.
Two types of blood-forming cells can turn into leukemia:
Leukemia can also be either acute or chronic. Acute leukemia grows quickly and needs
to be treated right away. Chronic leukemia grows more slowly.
What is chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)?
Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is a type of leukemia that starts in myeloid cells
in the bone marrow. It’s also called chronic myelogenous leukemia. It starts in white
blood cells that normally help the body fight infections.
There is a change in a chromosome in the cells of almost all people with CML. The
change is called the Philadelphia chromosome. It creates an abnormal gene called BCR-ABL.
This gene causes the leukemia cells to grow out of control.
As the leukemia cells grow, they can crowd out the normal cells in the bone marrow.
This can lead to not having enough of the different types of blood cells in the blood. People
with CML have too many abnormal white blood cells in their blood.
CML is a type of chronic leukemia. This means it tends to grow slowly. In most cases
CML doesn't cause symptoms right away. But symptoms can develop slowly and get worse
over time. Some people with CML have no symptoms when CML is diagnosed. In fact, CML
is often diagnosed when a high white blood cell count is found while doing blood tests
for another reason.
Talk with your healthcare provider
If you have questions about CML, talk with your healthcare provider. Your provider
can help you understand more about this type of leukemia.