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Hairy cell leukemia

  • Alternative Names

    Leukemic reticuloendotheliosis; HCL; Leukemia - hairy cell


    Treatment

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

    If treatment is needed because of very low blood counts, a variety of chemotherapy drugs can be used. A drug called cladribine is used. In most cases, chemotherapy can relieve the symptoms for many years. (When the signs and symptoms go away, you are said to be in remission.) Interferon can relieve symptoms but is unlikely to lead to remission.

    Removing the spleen may improve blood counts, but is unlikely to cure the disease. Antibiotics can be used to treat infections. People with low blood counts will receive growth factors and, possibly, transfusions.


    Support Groups


    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.


    Complications

    The low blood counts caused by hairy cell leukemia can lead to infections, fatigue, and excessive bleeding.


    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if you have significant bleeding. Also call if you have signs of infection, such as a persistent fever, cough, or general ill feeling.