Leukemia Types Chronic

Different types of leukemia progress at very different rates. While untreated acute leukemia is fatal within weeks or months of diagnosis, it can take years for noticeable chronic leukemia symptoms to develop.

Chronic Types of Leukemia

Chronic types of leukemia include chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Both types of leukemia are more common in adults than in children.

The risk of CLL increases with age: Over 75 percent cases occur after age 60, as reported by Merck Pharmaceuticals (2008). The abnormal lymphocytes associated with CLL have unusually long life spans, outliving normal blood cells and slowly dominating the blood count.

Chronic myelogenous leukemia progresses slowly at first. Eventually, however, this type of chronic leukemia reaches a point where the production of leukemia cells speeds up. At this point, CML symptoms resemble those of acute leukemia, and the cancer becomes much more aggressive.

The average age of diagnosis for CML ranges from 45 to 55, according to Merck Pharmaceuticals (2008). While CML can affect children, chronic leukemia is rare in children under the age of 10.

Chronic Leukemia Symptoms

Because chronic types of leukemia progress slowly, chronic leukemia symptoms are often not present at the time of diagnosis. Most cases of chronic leukemia are diagnosed during routine blood tests.

Chronic leukemia symptoms can take years to develop, and when they do, they are often vague and non-specific. Possible chronic leukemia symptoms include:

  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath during exercise
  • Weight loss.

Chronic Leukemia Prognosis

Chronic leukemia prognosis depends on the type of leukemia and the disease’s stage. Merck Pharmaceuticals (2008) reports that people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia may live up to 20 years, while older patients may die from other causes before the cancer progresses.

Chronic myelogenous leukemia prognosis depends on the stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis. The CML Support Web site reports that due to new treatments, over 90 percent of chronic myelogenous leukemia patients have a five-year survival rate. In cases of advanced CML, survival rates are significantly lower, dropping to a few months after diagnosis.

Treatment for Chronic Leukemia

Treatment for chronic leukemia depends on the specific type of leukemia. Because chronic lymphocytic leukemia progresses so slowly, initial treatment may be restricted to watchful waiting, with active treatment only starting if and when chronic leukemia symptoms appear.

Treatment for chronic myelogenous leukemia usually involves the kinase inhibitor imatinib, which blocks chemicals necessary for leukemia cell replication. Both types of leukemia may also be treated with chemotherapy and stem cell transplants.

Resources

CML Support. (n.d.). Dasatinib and nilotinib show strong early results as frontline therapy for CML. Retrieved April 28, 2010, from http://www.cmlsupport.org.uk/node/5960.

Mayo Clinic. (2008). Leukemia. Retrieved March 25, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/leukemia/DS00351/DSECTION=all