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CML and types of chronic leukaemia

Men and women discussing Chronic myeloid leukaemia

This page explains the difference between chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) and other types of leukaemia. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Differences between CML and other types of leukaemia

Leukaemias can be chronic or acute. Chronic leukaemias develop slowly and tend to get worse slowly. In chronic leukaemia the leukaemia cells are white blood cells that are almost fully developed, but are not completely normal. They still work, but not as well as they should. Acute leukaemias tend to develop quickly and get worse rapidly if they are not treated.

The two most common types of chronic leukaemia are chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) and chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). If you are looking for information about chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, look in the section about chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).

In CML, the abnormal cells develop from early blood cells called myeloid blood stem cells. These normally develop into cells called myelocytes or granulocytes. So CML is sometimes called chronic granulocytic leukaemia or CGL.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the about CML section.

 

 

Why leukaemias are called acute or chronic

Doctors put leukaemias into 2 main groups, acute and chronic. This describes how quickly the leukaemia is likely to develop and get worse. Acute leukaemias tend to develop quickly and get rapidly worse if they are not treated. Chronic leukaemias develop slowly and tend to get worse slowly, over a long time. 

In chronic leukaemia the white blood cells are almost fully developed, but are not completely normal. They still work, but not as well as they should do at fighting infection. Your body makes too many of these abnormal white blood cells. 

This section is about chronic myeloid leukaemia. There are other sections on acute myeloid leukaemia, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, chronic lymphoblastic leukaemia and hairy cell leukaemia.

 

CML and CLL

The two most common types of chronic leukaemia are

  • Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML)
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)

The difference between them is the type of white blood cell that has become cancerous. In CLL the abnormal cells develop from early blood cells called the lymphoid blood stem cells. The cancerous white blood cells are B lymphocytes, also called B cells.

In CML, the abnormal leukaemic cells develop from early blood cells called the myeloid blood stem cells. They become myelocytes. These cells are sometimes called granulocytes. So you may hear this type of leukaemia called chronic granulocytic leukaemia or CGL.

If you are looking for information about chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, this is not the right section for you. You need to use this link to go to the section about chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).

 

Hairy cell leukaemia

There is a third type of chronic leukaemia called hairy cell leukaemia. It is rarer than CLL or CML. The leukaemia cells have bits that stick out of the cell surface and look like hairs. These can be seen under a microscope and give this type of leukaemia its name.

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Updated: 23 April 2013