Hairy Cell Leukemia Prognosis

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

The treatment of hairy cell leukemia depends on how far advanced the disease is at the time of diagnosis.

As the condition is so rare, it can be difficult to determine patient outlook in the long term. However, estimates from Cancer Research UK suggest that around 95% of patients diagnosed with the condition will live for at least ten years after their diagnosis.

Most patients respond adequately when treated with cladribine or pentostatin. These drugs usually lead to remission for at least ten years, even if they are only taken once. Furthermore, the drugs are effective at treating any instances of disease relapse, although the disease-free remission is usually shorter lived after subsequent treatments.

How soon a patient begins to feel healthy again after treatment depends on several factors. Some of these are listed below:

  • The stage of disease at the time of diagnosis and initiation of treatment
  • How aggressive the cancer is
  • The patient’s general health status
  • Whether the patient was completely or only partially responsive to therapy
  • The patient’s perceived daily functioning and energy level prior to treatment
  • Whether the patient experienced any serious side effects such as renal failure
  • Whether the patient experiences particular trauma in response to their cancer diagnosis

With adequate treatment, a patient’s lifespan may not be significantly reduced. The risk of death is highest in the first two years after diagnosis but if a patient stays in remission for more than five years, the outlook is positive and they may even qualify for life insurance.

Reviewed by , BSc

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jul 24, 2014

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  1. Debbie McCullough Debbie McCullough United States says:

    Greetings. I am now 54 years old, female and was treated for Hairy cell leukemia 13 years ago with a 7 day drip of Cladribine. For the last 3 months I have become very weak and so tired, I have left thigh burning and numbness, I get daily headaches and my ribs feel like they are being pushing, especially while reclining in a reclining chair. I also get very sweaty, most times at night and while doing simple house cleaning chores. I have not lost a lot of weight, in fact I have been exercising about 30 minutes each morning to reduce my weight. I have been traveling as a volunteer to teach English as a second language throughout Asia and the middle east for the last 12 years. I returned in July 2014 to USA. I have no health insurance and no income other than an occasional request for house cleaning in the area which I am living in, so in short, I want to be sure before I do go to the doctor's that there is a cause to worry because I just can't afford the doctor bills. Could my symptoms be a relapse of Hairy cell leukemia? Does weight gain instead of weight lose rule out the possibility? I could really use some professional advice along with possible answers to why I am having these health issues. I have been searching a lot on the internet and yet to find weight gain as being apart of my HCL, everything points to weight lose and nothing mentions left thigh burning as being one of the symptoms yet I did read some personal stories of people with HCL and several mentioned left thigh burning after treatment but my in my case, 13 years seems weird for such a delayed reaction. Thank you and hope to hear from you soon. God bless

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