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Cancer Health Center

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Hairy Cell Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Stage Information for Hairy Cell Leukemia

No generally accepted staging system is useful for both prognosis and therapy.

For the purpose of treatment decisions, it is best to consider this disease in the following two broad categories:

Recommended Related to Leukemia & Lymphoma

Understanding Leukemia -- Diagnosis and Treatment

Because many types of leukemia show no obvious symptoms early in the disease, leukemia may be diagnosed incidentally during a physical exam or as a result of routine blood testing. If a person appears pale, has enlarged lymph nodes, swollen gums, an enlarged liver or spleen, significant bruising, bleeding, fever, persistent infections, fatigue, or a small pinpoint rash, the doctor should suspect leukemia. A blood test showing an abnormal white cell count may suggest the diagnosis. To confirm the...

Read the Understanding Leukemia -- Diagnosis and Treatment article > >

  • Untreated hairy cell leukemia.
  • Progressive hairy cell leukemia, either postsplenectomy or postsystemic therapy.

Untreated hairy cell leukemia

Untreated hairy cell leukemia is characterized by splenomegaly, varying degrees of leukopenia (occasionally leukocytosis) and/or pancytopenia, and bone marrow infiltration by an atypical cell with prominent cytoplasmic projections (i.e., hairy cells). The bone marrow is usually fibrotic and is not easily aspirated. Bone marrow biopsies are, therefore, required for diagnosis and evaluation of the degree of hairy cell infiltration.

Progressive hairy cell leukemia

Progressive hairy cell leukemia, postsplenectomy (or following any systemic therapy) is characterized by progressive bone marrow replacement by hairy cells with pancytopenia refractory to treatment. For patients with advanced hairy cell leukemia treated with cladribine (2-chlorodeoxyadenosine, 2-CdA), pentostatin, or interferon-alpha, the survival rate appears to be more than 85% at 5 years following the initiation of any one of these therapies.[1,2]


  1. Frassoldati A, Lamparelli T, Federico M, et al.: Hairy cell leukemia: a clinical review based on 725 cases of the Italian Cooperative Group (ICGHCL). Italian Cooperative Group for Hairy Cell Leukemia. Leuk Lymphoma 13 (3-4): 307-16, 1994.
  2. Kurzrock R, Strom SS, Estey E, et al.: Second cancer risk in hairy cell leukemia: analysis of 350 patients. J Clin Oncol 15 (5): 1803-10, 1997.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: May 28, 2015
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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