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Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia (CMML)

Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML) is a rare cancer of the white blood cells. It occurs when a mature type of white blood cell, monocytes, do not develop normally. These abnormal cells grow out of control and crowd out healthy blood cells.

There are no known risk factors associated with CMML. Physicians are not sure exactly what causes it, but a genetic mutation (not inherited) may be related.

Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia is more common in older adults, and is usually diagnosed around age 65 to 75. CMML is treatable, and survival rates vary depending on age, overall health and other factors.

Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia symptoms

Because CMML progresses slowly, many people do not show symptoms. Some known symptoms include the following:

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Pain or a feeling of fullness in the abdomen
  • Frequent infections
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Pinhead-sized red spots in the skin

How can I get help for chronic myelomonocytic leukemia?

If your physician suspects you may have CMML, you will need further testing to rule out other blood disorders. Leukemia specialists at Rush may recommend one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood tests to check for high monocyte count and low red blood cell and platelet count
  • Tests of previous bone marrow studies to look for specific chromosome abnormalities
  • Needle aspiration or biopsy (if necessary) for a new bone marrow sample
  • Molecular test to look for certain markers in leukemia cells that can be targeted with specific drugs

Care for chronic myelomonocytic leukemia at Rush

The main treatment goal for CMML is remission. The Rush team of leukemia physicians may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

  • Targeted therapy using oral medications to attack CMML cells
  • Chemotherapy using drugs that damage or kill abnormal granulocytes
  • Stem cell transplantation from a healthy donor, to either treat patients who do not respond to other treatments or restore bone marrow after chemotherapy
  • Treatments to support red blood cell production, including blood transfusions and growth factor treatment
  • Follow-up tests to monitor your condition

Why choose Rush for chronic myelomonocytic leukemia care?

  • Patients can participate in clinical trials conducted by researchers at Rush. This research offers patients the opportunity to try new tests, drugs and treatments.
  • Rush has an experienced, multidisciplinary team of specialists in cancer, blood, radiation therapy and stem cell transplants. The team meets weekly to discuss new patients and determine the best treatment for each individual.
  • Patients receive excellent care from physicians who are specially trained in leukemia at Rush. The Leukemia Program and the Coleman Foundation Comprehensive Blood and Bone Marrow Transplant Clinic have accreditations and recognitions from well-known health care groups.

Departments and programs that treat this condition