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Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia (CMML)

What is chronic myelomonocytic leukemia? 

Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML) is a rare form of blood cancer that forms in the cells of the bone marrow before invading the blood cells. It falls under the group myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative neoplasm with other disorders like atypical chronic myeloid leukemia. 

What are the symptoms of chronic myelomonocytic leukemia?

One of the biggest signs of CMML is too many monocytes, which is shown through a blood test. This causes enlargement of the spleen and/or liver, which in turn can cause pain and discomfort in the abdomen, along with a loss of appetite. Additional symptoms include: 

  • Anemia
    • This causes fatigue, pale skin, and shortness of breath
  • Frequent infections, which can be severe
  • Easy bleeding
  • Easy bruising
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

What causes chronic myelomonocytic leukemia?

In the majority of cases, the cause is unknown. They suspect that an acquired genetic mutation is the cause, but more research must be done. In a smaller number of cases, past cancer treatment with chemotherapy or radiation is the cause. Additionally, a number of risk factors have been identified, such as old age (most common around 60), being male, and having prior cancer treatment. 

How is chronic myelomonocytic leukemia diagnosed?

Doctors first look for the characteristic signs and symptoms, and will follow with tests. A complete blood count is the first step, with bone marrow aspiration, cytogenetic tests, and bone marrow biopsy typically following. Other possible tests include immunocytochemistry, genetic testing, and flow cytometry. 

What are the treatments for chronic myelomonocytic leukemia?

The only way to cure CMML is through a stem cell transplant. If this is not possible, treatment is meant to relieve symptoms while reducing the chance of complications. Doctors will often prescribe either Dacogen or Vidaza alongside symptomatic treatments. 

Where can I find out more about chronic myelomonocytic leukemia?

CMML Articles