Hairy Cell Leukemia

General Illness Information

Medical Term: Hairy Cell Leukemia

Common Name: Hairy Cell Leukemia, HCL

Description: Hairy cell leukemia is a rare, slowly progressing malignant blood disease, in which excess B-lymphocytes are produced in the bone marrow.

These B-lymphocytes are pathological and look “hairy” under the microscope. The number of pathological cells increases, and the development of normal leukocytes, erythrocytes and platelets decreases.

Hairy cell leukemia is more common in men than in women, and is more common among middle-aged or elderly people.

Hairy cell leukemia is considered a chronic disease, because it can be never completely cured, although the treatment allows you to achieve remission for many years.


Up-to-date medicine has not thoroughly clarified all factors that provoke this type of leukemia. The possible causes of hairy cell leukemia are divided into four main groups:

  • Heredity. Scientists have established that the presence of leukemia in any of the direct (blood) relatives, will certainly pose threat even after several generations. The hereditary factor is considered the most likely and common cause of leukemia in children;
  • A history of infectious-viral diseases. Viral invasion of healthy cells causes irreversible mutations and pathological degeneration, which ultimately threatens the development of malignant neoplasms;
  • Leukogenic and chemical factors, or the consequence of taking medications that are prescribed for various diseases, including cephalosporin drugs, antibiotics of the penicillin type. The effects of chemical pathogens include long-term exposure to synthetic detergents, various floor coverings based on polymer compounds, etc;
  • Radiation irradiation. Exposure to radionuclides increases the risk of leukemia several times, and the likelihood of the disease is possible at any dose of radiation received.

Signs & Symptoms:

Some people do not have any signs or symptoms of hairy cell leukemia, and the disease is detected by chance on the basis of a blood test.

Sometimes hairy cell leukemia is accompanied by symptoms that occur in many other diseases:

  • Sensation of rapid overfilling of the stomach;
  • Fatigability;
  • Easy bruising;
  • Frequent infections;
  • Weakness;
  • Unintentional weight loss.

All symptoms: fatigue, weakness, sudden weight loss, chronic skin infections.


The diagnosis is based on the detection of at least 10% of pathological (“hairy”) cells in the bone marrow. The disease flows slowly, infectious complications are often observed. Leukemia cells (with hairy cell leukemia) in most cases belong to the B-phenotype, in some cases they carry markers of B- and T-cells.


The tactics of treatment and the choice of medications depend on the form of leukemia. A patient is under constant monitoring and supervision. Complete recovery is almost impossible and treatment of leukemia becomes a matter of the rest of a patient’s life.

The treatment of hairy cell leukemia includes significant doses of glucocorticoid hormones and antitumor drugs. When an associated secondary infection occurs, a patient with hairy cell leukemia is prescribed appropriate anti-inflammatory therapy and a blood transfusion.

To support patients with hairy cell leukemia leukemia, a patient receives drugs that suppress the growth of malignant neoplasms. Concomitant measures to support the body include the introduction of radioactive phosphorus and radiation therapy.

Possible Complications:

  • infectious diseases of the body,
  • decreased number of red blood cells and platelets.
  • development of secondary malignant tumor, neuraleukemia and renal insufficiency.


Since the causes of the disease are unknown, no specific methods of prevention have been developed.


Not specified.

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