Which clinical history findings are characteristic of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)?

Updated: May 23, 2021
  • Author: Emmanuel C Besa, MD; Chief Editor: Sara J Grethlein, MD, FACP  more...
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Answer

The clinical manifestations of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) are insidious. The disease is often discovered incidentally in the chronic phase, when an elevated white blood cell (WBC) count is revealed by a routine blood count or when an enlarged spleen is found on a general physical examination.

Nonspecific symptoms of fatigue and weight loss may occur long after the onset of the disease. Loss of energy and decreased exercise tolerance may occur during the chronic phase after several months.

Patients often have symptoms related to enlargement of the spleen, liver, or both. The large spleen may encroach on the stomach and cause early satiety and decreased food intake. Left upper quadrant abdominal pain described as "gripping" may occur from spleen infarction. The enlarged spleen may also be associated with a hypermetabolic state, fever, weight loss, and chronic fatigue. The enlarged liver may contribute to the patient's weight loss.

Some patients with CML have low-grade fever and excessive sweating related to hypermetabolism.

In some patients who present in the accelerated, or acute, leukemia phase of the disease (skipping the chronic phase), bleeding, petechiae, and ecchymoses may be the prominent symptoms. In these situations, fever is usually associated with infections. Bone pain and fever, as well as an increase in bone marrow fibrosis, are harbingers of the blast phase.


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