Some patients may have very high white blood cell (WBC) counts at the time of diagnosis. These elevated WBC counts can sometimes impair blood flow to the brain, lungs, eyes and other sites, and also cause damage in small blood vessels.
Hydroxyurea (Hydrea®) is sometimes given to lower very high WBC counts rapidly until a CML diagnosis is confirmed through blood and bone marrow tests. Hydroxyurea is taken as a capsule by mouth. Lowering those very high WBC counts can help reduce the size of the spleen. Once a diagnosis of CML is confirmed, doctors will usually start tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) therapy and discontinue hydroxyurea.
Leukapheresis is a procedure that uses a machine similar to a dialysis machine to remove white blood cells from the circulating blood. Leukapheresis is used to lower WBC counts if chronic phase CML is diagnosed during the first months of pregnancy, when other treatments may be harmful to fetal development. For more information about pregnancy and CML, see Pregnancy.
- Download or order The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's free booklet, Chronic Myeloid Leukemia
- For information about the drugs mentioned on this page, visit Drug Listings.