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 and Delivery of High Quality Cancer Care in Essex"
NHS Essex Cancer Network

Leukaemia (Chronic)


Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) is a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells and tends to progress slowly over many years.

It can occur at any age, but is most common in older adults around 60-65 years of age.

In CML, the spongy material inside some bones (bone marrow) produces too many myeloid cells – immature white blood cells that aren't fully developed and don't work properly.

CML is different to other types of leukaemia, including chronic lymphocytic leukaemiaacute myeloid leukaemia and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

This page covers:


When to get medical advice




Support groups and charities

Symptoms of CML

CML doesn't usually have any symptoms in its early stages and may only be picked up during tests carried out for another reason.

As the condition develops, symptoms can include:

  • tiredness 
  • weight loss
  • night sweats
  • tenderness and swelling in the left side of your tummy
  • feeling full after small meals
  • pale skin and shortness of breath
  • a high temperature (fever)
  • bruising and bleeding easily
  • frequent infections
  • bone pain

When to get medical advice

See your GP if you have any persistent symptoms that you're worried about.

The symptoms above can have many different causes, so it's unlikely you have CML, but it's a good idea to get them checked out.

Your GP can arrange for a blood test to check for possible causes of your symptoms. If this detects a problem, you may be referred to a hospital specialist for further tests.

Read more about how CML is diagnosed.

Treatments for CML

Treatment for CML is usually started straightaway to help slow down its progression and keep it under control.

The main treatments for CML are medications called tyrosine kinase inhibitors that stop the cancer cells growing and multiplying. They can help keep CML under control if taken for life.

These medicines include:

  • imatinib tablets
  • nilotinib capsules
  • dasatinib tablets
  • bosutinib tablets

Regular blood tests will be carried out to check the medication is working.

Occasionally, it may be possible to have a stem cell transplant. Stem cells are cells that go on to form other types of cell. In this case, stem cells from your bone marrow are transplanted, which can produce healthy white blood cells.

A stem cell transplant can potentially cure CML, although it's a very intensive treatment and isn't suitable in many cases.

Read more about how CML is treated.

Outlook for CML

CML is a serious and life-threatening condition, but with the introduction of newer tyrosine kinase inhibitors, the outlook is much better now than it used to be.

It's estimated that around 85-95% of people will now live at least five years after their diagnosis, and that many people will probably live much longer than this.

It's thought life expectancy may not be affected at all in some cases, as long as treatment is continued.

The outlook is generally better the earlier CML is diagnosed.

Causes of CML

CML is caused by a genetic change (mutation) in the stem cells produced by the bone marrow.

The mutation causes the stem cells to produce too many underdeveloped white blood cells. It also leads to a reduction in the number of other blood cells, such as red blood cells.

The change involves bundles of DNA called chromosomes. Within each stem cell, a section of DNA from one chromosome swaps with a section from another. This change is known as the "Philadelphia chromosome". Read more about genes and chromosomes.

It's not known what causes this to happen, but it's not something you're born with and you can't pass it on to your children.

Support groups and charities

Living with a serious, long-term condition such as CML can be very difficult.

You may find it useful to find out as much as you can about the condition and speak to others affected by it.

The following support groups and charities can offer help and advice for people CML, their families and their carers:

Macmillan Cancer Support and Cancer Research UK also provide CML information and support.

Further information on chronic leukaemia

Information Prescription Service - CML

To access the Information Prescription Service and the national cancer information pathway for chronic myeloid leukaemia please click on the link below. Then click on 'Specialist information from our charity partners'


Information Prescription Service - CLL

To access the Information Prescription Service and the national cancer information pathway for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia please click on the link below. Then click on 'Specialist information from our charity partners'


Macmillan Cancer Support Website

www.macmillan.org.uk CML


www.macmillan.org.uk CLL

Cancer Research UK Website


Further Information

Visit or phone a local cancer information centre

There are several cancer information and support centres in Essex Cancer Network where anyone affected by cancer can be sure of a warm welcome and high quality, accurate, evidence-based information:

Basildon Hospital Macmillan Info and Support Centre, Outpatients Dept, Basildon Hospital, staffed Monday 2pm - Friday 12.30pm,tel: 0845 155 3111 extension 4908

Macmillan Info and Support Centre,Essex County Hospital, Outpatients Dept, Monday - Friday office hours, tel: 01206 747474

Information Resource Service, St Luke's House, Corringham,Thurrock, Monday to Friday office hours, tel: 01375 648170

Lantern Suite, Farleigh Hospice,Chelmsford, Monday to Friday office hours, tel: 01245 457418

Hospice Outreach Project Information Bus, Farleigh Hospice, covers the Chelmsford area. Contact Farleigh Hospice as above

For more information, please contact the service direct.


Visit your local library in Essex Cancer Network

Essex, Southend and Thurrock library services have worked in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support and the Essex Cancer Network to establish collections of quality assured information books and pamphlets about cancer. These can be accessed at any library: just ask. Additionally some staff at libraries have been trained to help patients use the Information Prescription Service.

Contact Macmillan Cancer Support Helplines

If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just someone to talk to, call free, Monday to Friday 9am - 8pm (interpretation service available) tel: 0808 808 0000

For financial queries tel: 0808 808 2232


Remember: Stay safe online when looking for support!

Internet chat rooms and message forums can be valuable sources of support and comfort, enabling you to meet others in the same position. However, there is potential for abuse - please read these guidelines before you set off to explore...

Click here to download the draft guidelines


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