St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

    Print-Friendly
    Bookmarks

    Hairy cell leukemia

    Leukemic reticuloendotheliosis; HCL; Leukemia - hairy cell

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

    Causes

    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.

    HCL usually leads to low numbers of normal blood cells.

    The cause of this disease is unknown. It affects men more often than women. The average age of diagnosis is 55.

    Symptoms

    • Easy bruising or bleeding
    • Excessive sweating (especially at night)
    • Fatigue
    • Feeling full after eating only a small amount
    • Recurrent infections and fevers
    • Pain or fullness in the upper left belly
    • Swollen lymph glands
    • Weakness
    • Weight loss

    Exams and Tests

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

    A complete blood count usually shows low levels of white and red blood cells as well as platelets.

    Blood tests and a bone marrow biopsy can detect hairy cells. Flow cytometry is needed to make the diagnosis. Sometimes, a test called tartrate resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP) is done.

    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. Drugs that may be used include cladribine, pentostatin, and rituximab.

    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.

    Outlook (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.

    Possible Complications

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

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    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.

    Prevention

    There is no known way to prevent this disease.

    References

    Kantarjian H, O’Brien S. The chronic leukemias. In Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 190.

    National Comprehensive Cancer Network. National Comprehensive Cancer Network Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. 2012. Version 2.2012.

    BACK TO TOP

    • Bone marrow aspiration

      illustration

    • Auer rods

      illustration

    • Hairy cell leukemia - mi...

      illustration

    • Formed elements of blood

      illustration

    • Enlarged spleen

      illustration

      • Bone marrow aspiration

        illustration

      • Auer rods

        illustration

      • Hairy cell leukemia - mi...

        illustration

      • Formed elements of blood

        illustration

      • Enlarged spleen

        illustration

      A Closer Look

        Tests for Hairy cell leukemia

        Review Date: 6/5/2012

        Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

        The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
        adam.com

        A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.


        Back  |  Top
        About Us
        Contact Us
        History
        Mission
        Locations & Directions
        Quality Reports
        Annual Reports
        Honors & Awards
        Community Health Needs
        Assessment

        Newsroom
        Services
        Brain & Spine
        Cancer
        Heart
        Maternity
        Orthopedics
        Pulmonary
        Sleep Medicine
        Urgent Care
        Women's Services
        All Services
        Patients & Visitors
        Locations & Directions
        Find a Physician
        Tour St. Luke's
        Patient & Visitor Information
        Contact Us
        Payment Options
        Financial Assistance
        Send a Card
        Mammogram Appointments
        Health Tools
        My Personal Health
        mystlukes
        Spirit of Women
        Health Information & Tools
        Clinical Trials
        Health Risk Assessments
        Employer Programs -
        Passport to Wellness

        Classes & Events
        Classes & Events
        Spirit of Women
        Donate & Volunteer
        Giving Opportunities
        Volunteer
        Physicians & Employees
        For Physicians
        Remote Access
        Medical Residency Information
        Pharmacy Residency Information
        Physician CPOE Training
        Careers
        Careers
        St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
        Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile