Blood cancer curable if diagnosed early, say experts from PGIMER Chandigarh
Chronic myeloid leukemia is a type of blood cancer that affects the bone marrow. It is characterised by the uncontrolled growth of white blood-cells, specifically granulocytes, in the bone marrow
Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) blood cancer, once considered a life-threatening disease, is now largely curable, especially when diagnosed early, said PGIMER health experts during an event organised to commemorate World CML Day on Friday at Bhargava Auditorium, Sector 12.
CML is a type of blood cancer that affects the bone marrow. It is characterised by the uncontrolled growth of white blood-cells, specifically granulocytes, in the bone marrow.
For CML, now there’s a special treatment called imatinib mesylate, often called a “magic bullet,” that has completely transformed how we deal with the cancer. Nowadays, it’s more like managing conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure.
Dr Pankaj Malhotra, professor and head of clinical hematology & medical oncology, said CML blood cancer can be cured in around 40% of patients after a few years, and in some cases, medication can even be discontinued. Early detection and prompt treatment are crucial, involving regular check-ups and medication. While there is a possibility of a cure in advanced stages, but it’s tough and percentage is low.
CML blood cancer common in 30-40 age group
Dr Malhotra pointed out, “In India, this disease tends to affect individuals in the 30 to 40-year-old age group, which is approximately 15 to 20 years earlier than the age group commonly affected in America. PGI provides care for approximately 4,000 patients with this condition, with 60% of them hailing from Punjab.”
Unlike solid cancers, blood cancers are generally not classified into stages because cancerous blood cells circulate throughout the body. CML is not contagious and hereditary. The symptoms include low-grade fever, malaise or a feeling of heaviness in the left side of abdomen, fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite and persistent weight loss.
Patients, families share stories of challenges
Jagsir Singh from Mansa, Punjab, shared that his 48-year-old wife has been receiving treatment at PGI since 2008. Initially, they were frightened by the disease, but with ongoing medication, she is doing well and leading a normal life.
Veena Sood, a 66-year-old banker from Ludhiana, shared her story of being diagnosed with CML at the age of 38. At that time, there were no available treatments, and medical professionals predicted a life expectancy of only 2-3 years. Veena underwent treatment with the “magic bullet” medication for 13 years, which amounted to approximately 1 crore in expenses.
Devinder Pal, a 55-year-old resident of Ambala, shared his experience of being diagnosed in 2005. He underwent medication for 15 years, and for the past year and a half, he has successfully stopped taking medication. He is currently in excellent health and thriving.
Since 2001, PGIMER, in collaboration with The Max Foundation, has been providing this life-saving medication free of cost to non-affording patients. The number of CML patients living healthy lives has significantly increased, highlighting the remarkable impact of this medication.
A new book covering frequently asked questions (FAQs) about CML was also launched in Hindi, English and Punjabi during the event.