Leukemia Home > Hairy Cell Leukemia Treatment

Watchful waiting, chemotherapy, biological therapy, and surgery are some of the methods used for treating hairy cell leukemia. Chemotherapy often involves the drugs cladribine and pentostatin. Biological therapy often involves the use of an agent known as interferon alfa. When surgery is used, it often consists of a splenectomy (removal of the spleen).

How Is Hairy Cell Leukemia Treated?

There are many different ways of treating hairy cell leukemia, including:
  • Watchful waiting
  • Chemotherapy
  • Biological therapy
  • Surgery.

Treating Hairy Cell Leukemia With Watchful Waiting

Watchful waiting involves closely monitoring a person's condition, without giving any hairy cell leukemia treatment until symptoms appear or change.

Chemotherapy as a Hairy Cell Leukemia Treatment

Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping the cells from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (this is called systemic chemotherapy).
When healthcare providers place anticancer drugs directly into the spinal column, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen (stomach), the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (this is called regional chemotherapy).
The way healthcare providers administer chemotherapy will depend on the type and stage of hairy cell leukemia that is being treated. Examples of anticancer drugs used to treat this condition include cladribine and pentostatin.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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