Treatment for hairy cell leukaemia

As hairy cell leukaemia develops slowly, immediate treatmentmay not be needed. You'll have regular blood tests to monitor your condition.

Treatment may be recommended ifthe number of abnormal white blood cellsincreases or if you develop symptoms.

Chemotherapy is the main treatment for hairy cell leukaemia and is usually effective at destroying the cancerous cells. The two main chemotherapymedications usedare:

  • cladribine given as either an injection just under the skin, or through a drip directly into a vein (infusion)
  • pentostatin given as an infection directly into a vein (intravenously) every two weeks

Rituximab,a type ofmedication known as a monoclonal antibody,may sometimes be used in combination with chemotherapy. Itworks by attaching to a protein found on leukaemia cells and the immune system then targets and kills the cells.

Surgery to remove the spleen is rarely usedas a treatment forhairy cell leukaemia.However, removal of your spleen may be recommended if:

  • it's enlarged and is causing pain or discomfort
  • it's destroying large numbers of red blood cells or platelets
  • it hasn't reduced in size after chemotherapy

As with most types of cancer, the outlook for hairy cell leukaemia will depend on how far the conditionhas advanced at the time of diagnosis and how well it responds to treatment.

As hairy cell leukaemia is arare type of cancer, it's difficult to accurately predict how it will affect individuals in the long term.

The Cancer Research UK website has more information about:

Types of treatment for hairy cell leukaemia

Staging hairy cell leukaemia

Living with hairy cell leukaemia

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018