What is the definition of Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia?

Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is cancer that starts inside bone marrow. This is the soft tissue in the center of bones that helps form all blood cells.

CML causes an uncontrolled growth of immature and mature cells that make a certain type of white blood cell called myeloid cells. The diseased cells build up in the bone marrow and blood.

What are the alternative names for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia?

CML; Chronic myeloid leukemia; CGL; Chronic granulocytic leukemia; Leukemia - chronic granulocytic

What are the causes for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia?

Cause of CML is related to an abnormal chromosome called the Philadelphia chromosome.

Radiation exposure can increase the risk of developing CML. Radiation exposure can be from radiation treatments used in the past to treat thyroid cancer or Hodgkin lymphoma or from a nuclear disaster.

It takes many years to develop leukemia from radiation exposure. Most people treated for cancer with radiation do not develop leukemia. And most people with CML have not been exposed to radiation.

CML most often occurs in middle-age adults and in children.

What are the symptoms for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia?

Chronic myelogenous leukemia is grouped into phases:

  • Chronic
  • Accelerated
  • Blast crisis

The chronic phase can last for months or years. The disease may have few or no symptoms during this time. Most people are diagnosed during this stage, when they have blood tests done for other reasons.

The accelerated phase is a more dangerous phase. Leukemia cells grow more quickly. Common symptoms include fever (even without infection), bone pain, and a swollen spleen.

Untreated CML leads to the blast crisis phase. Bleeding and infection may occur due to bone marrow failure.

Other possible symptoms of a blast crisis include:

  • Bruising
  • Excessive sweating (night sweats)
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Pressure under the lower left ribs from a swollen spleen
  • Rash -- small pinpoint red marks on the skin (petechiae)
  • Weakness

What are the current treatments for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia?

Medicines that target the abnormal protein made by the Philadelphia chromosome are often the first treatment for CML. These medicines can be taken as pills. People treated with these drugs often go into remission quickly and can stay in remission for many years.

Sometimes, chemotherapy is used first to reduce the white blood cell count if it is very high at diagnosis.

The blast crisis phase is very difficult to treat. This is because there is a very high count of immature white blood cells (leukemia cells) that are resistant to treatment.

The only known cure for CML is a bone marrow transplant, or stem cell transplant. Most people, though, do not need a transplant because the targeted medicines are successful. Discuss your options with your oncologist.

You and your health care provider may need to manage many other issues or concerns during your leukemia treatment, including:

  • Managing your pets during chemotherapy
  • Bleeding problems
  • Eating enough calories when you are sick
  • Swelling and pain in your mouth
  • Safe eating during cancer treatment

What are the support groups for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia?

You can ease the stress of illness by joining a cancer support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia?

Targeted medicines have greatly improved the outlook for people with CML. When the signs and symptoms of CML go away and blood counts and bone marrow biopsy appear normal, the person is considered in remission. Most people can remain in remission for many years while on this medicine.

Stem cell or bone marrow transplant is often considered in people whose disease comes back or gets worse while taking the initial medicines. Transplant may also be recommended for people who are diagnosed in accelerated phase or blast crisis.

What are the possible complications for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia?

Blast crisis can lead to complications, including infection, bleeding, fatigue, unexplained fever, and kidney problems. Chemotherapy can have serious side effects, depending on the drugs used.

How do I prevent Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia?

Avoid exposure to radiation when possible.

Bone marrow aspiration
Chronic myelocytic leukemia - microscopic view
Chronic myelocytic leukemia
Chronic myelocytic leukemia


Kantarjian H, Cortes J. Chronic myeloid leukemia. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Kastan MB, Doroshow JH, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 98.

National Cancer Institute website. Chronic myelogenous leukemia treatment (PDQ) health professional version. www.cancer.gov/types/leukemia/hp/cml-treatment-pdq. Updated February 8, 2019. Accessed March 20, 2020.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network website. NCCN clinical practice guidelines in oncology: (NCCN guidelines).Chronic myeloid leukemia. Version 3.2020. www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/cml.pdf. Updated January 30, 2020. Accessed March 23, 2020.

Radich J. Chronic myeloid leukemia. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 175.

  • Condition: Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML)
  • Journal: [Rinsho ketsueki] The Japanese journal of clinical hematology
  • Treatment Used: Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors (TKIs)
  • Number of Patients: 0
  • Published —
This article discusses the use of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) in the treatment of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).
  • Condition: Chronic Myeloid Leukemia
  • Journal: Orvosi hetilap
  • Treatment Used: Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors
  • Number of Patients: 88
  • Published —
This study evaluated the outcomes of tyrosine kinase inhibitors in the treatment of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia.