Key Points about Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML)

  • Chronic myeloid leukemia most often occurs in older adults.
  • Doctors use biopsy, blood tests and physical exams to diagnose CML.
  • Treatment for CML may include chemotherapy, targeted therapy and/or stem cell transplant.


Chronic myeloid leukemia – or CML – is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. Bone marrow is the spongy tissue located inside the bones. CML affects a group of white blood cells known as myeloid cells and progresses more slowly than acute myeloid leukemia.

This condition is also known as chronic myelogenous leukemia or chronic granulocytic leukemia. CML is not passed down in families (genetic).

Chronic myeloid leukemia causes

CML is caused when bone marrow cells develop a mutation (change) in their DNA.

Chronic myeloid leukemia risk factors

The following factors may increase your risk for developing CML:

  • Being male
  • Being older
  • Having undergone radiation therapy

Chronic myeloid leukemia symptoms

Signs and symptoms of CML can include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Easy bleeding
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Feeling full after eating a very small meal
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Pain in the bones
  • Pain or a feeling of fullness on the left side of the abdomen below your ribs
  • Unintentional weight loss

Chronic myeloid leukemia diagnosis

Your oncologist may use one or more of the following tests to diagnose this condition:

  • Physical exam – your doctor will perform a complete physical exam, including asking questions about your health history, symptoms and related risk factors.
  • Blood tests – your doctor will send a sample of your blood to the laboratory for close analysis. The lab can determine if the blood has unusual levels of white blood cells, which may indicate CML.
  • Bone marrow biopsy – in this test, your doctor removes a biopsy (small tissue sample) from the bone marrow. This sample is sent to the laboratory, where a specialist closely checks the biopsy for cancerous cells.

Chronic myeloid leukemia treatment

Depending on your personal health history, the extent of the CML and other factors, your oncologist may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:

  • Bone marrow transplant – also known as a stem cell transplant, this treatment involves infusing your diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow. Doing so can help your body fight the cancer.
  • Chemotherapy – during this treatment, medication is used to destroy cancerous cells. Chemotherapy can be taken via an oral (by mouth) pill or intravenously (through a vein).
  • Targeted therapy – in this treatment, specialized medications kill cancerous blood cells. Targeted therapy may help preserve more surrounding healthy tissue than other treatment options.

When should I seek care?

If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing an oncologist for more specialized treatment.

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