Hairy cell leukaemia is a rare progressive chronic leukaemia that usually occurs in males over 40 years of age. Tiredness, enlarged lymph nodes and spleen and bleeding into the skin are the main symptoms, but serious infections due to destruction of white blood cells may also occur. It is diagnosed by blood tests and bone marrow biopsy.
The drug cladribine has been remarkably successful in inducing remissions, but splenectomy is the main form of treatment. Sixty per cent (60%) of patients survive for four years, but a permanent cure is uncommon.