Leukemia is a cancer of the blood-forming cells. It begins in your bone marrow. That's the spongy substance inside your bones that makes blood cells. The cancer spreads quickly to the blood and, over time, to other organs and parts of the body. Leukemia is not a single disease. There are several types, each with a different treatment plan and prognosis. The type you have, chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), is usually a slowly worsening type that occurs when immature white blood cells, called blasts, are released into the bloodstream. CML is also called chronic myelogenous leukemia.
Your doctor was able to tell that you have leukemia by blood tests and/or a bone marrow biopsy. These tests may also show the type of leukemia and how far the disease has progressed, which is called the phase.
The good news is that more treatment options exist than ever before. That means there is more hope of treating leukemia.
To decide the best course of treatment for you, your health care team needs to know as much as they can about you and your leukemia. This may involve getting some tests and working with more than 1 doctor or other health care professionals.
Your health care team will likely include these members:
An oncologist, a doctor specializing in cancer, or a hematologist, a doctor who specializes in blood disorders
An oncology nurse
An oncology social worker
They will answer any questions you may have and help you through each of the steps you will take before, during, and after treatment. Your team will let you know what tests you need and the results of those tests. They'll guide you in making treatment decisions.
Usually treatment for chronic myeloid leukemia begins a few weeks after a diagnosis, so you have time to have more tests, if necessary. You also have time to talk with your doctor about treatment choices, get another opinion, decide about treatment, and prepare yourself and your loved ones.