Chronic leukemia is a disease in which abnormal, cancerous white blood cells are made in the bone marrow. Depending on the type of white blood cell that is involved, chronic leukemia can be classified as chronic lymphocytic leukemia or chronic myeloid leukemia.Leukemia strikes both sexes and all ages. Although the cause is unknown, chronic leukemia is linked to genetic abnormalities and environmental factors.
For example, exposure to ionizing radiation and to certain organic chemicals, such as benzene, is believed to increase the risks for getting leukemia. Chronic leukemia occurs in some people who are infected with two human retroviruses (HTLV-I and HTLV-II). An abnormal chromosome known as the Philadelphia chromosome is seen in 90 percent of those with CML. The incidence of chronic leukemia is slightly higher among men than women.
The symptoms of chronic leukemia are generally vague and non-specific. In chronic lymphoid leukemia (CLL), a patient may experience all or some of the following symptoms:
swollen lymph nodes
an enlarged spleen, which could make the patient complain of abdominal fullness
a general feeling of ill-health
fever of unknown origin
weight loss that is not due to dieting or exercise
frequent bacterial or viral infections
In the early stages of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), the symptoms are more or less similar to CLL. In the later stages of the disease, the patient may experience the following symptoms:
non-specific bone pain
mucus membrane irritation
a pale color due to a low red blood cell count (anemia)
swollen lymph glands