(BPT) - The story of NBA's All-Time Leading Scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s diagnosis with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is one example of how a devastating diagnosis can be turned into advocacy and inspiration.
In 2008, Mr. Abdul-Jabbar knew something was wrong. He was experiencing hot flashes and at night would wake up soaked in sweat. He knew it was time to make an appointment with his doctor. After a series of tests, he quickly learned that he had Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukemia in chronic phase (Ph+ CML-CP). Mr. Abdul-Jabbar explains:
“When I first heard that I had cancer, I was in shock and it felt like I’d been given a death sentence. But my doctor explained that by working closely together to develop the right treatment plan, including establishing clear treatment goals and taking medication as prescribed, my disease can be treated.”
CML is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow in which the body produces cancerous white blood cells. Chronic means a relatively slower-growing cancer that may take years to progress. Myeloid refers to the type of white blood cell being overproduced. In 2012 alone, there will be more than 5,430 newly diagnosed cases of this form of leukemia in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.
Over the past 12 years, there have been significant advances in understanding how CML works, which has led to the development of treatments designed to act against the underlying cause of this disease, a genetic abnormality called Bcr-Abl. These treatments, known as Bcr-Abl inhibitors, are thought to block the ability of the abnormal Bcr-Abl gene to send signals that drive production of the leukemic blood cells.
And while there have been many advances in the treatment of CML, it’s important that patients be actively involved in the management of their disease by working closely with their doctor to ensure they are reaching their personal treatment goals. For those patients living with CML, a key treatment goal is to achieve and maintain a major molecular response, or MMR, which means that the amount of BCR-ABL in your blood or bone marrow is very low, or even nearly undetectable.
“For patients living with CML, it is very important to continue to monitor your disease. For example, my doctor and I recently determined I was not reaching my treatment goals -- to reach and sustain a molecular response and address the side effects I was experiencing -- with my current plan. We re-evaluated my treatment plan and after considering my options, decided to switch my medication. Since switching, I’ve been able to achieve and maintain a MMR with less fatigue and hand cramping.”
The most sensitive test that is currently available to measure MMR is a simple blood test called an International Scale-PCR test (IS-PCR stands for International Scale Polymerase Chain Reaction). Getting regular IS-PCR tests is an important part of your treatment plan, as it will help you and your doctor determine if you are achieving and maintaining a MMR.
Mr. Abdul-Jabbar notes, “For me, it’s important to play an active role in life and a part of my life is treating my CML. I now know that I have reached a molecular response with my CML treatment, and I’m fortunate that I’m still able to do many of the things I love to do.”
Learn more about CML visit www.cmlearth.com.
As a CML patient advocate, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s goal is to inspire and educate fellow patients living with this disease. In addition to his work on CML education, he is also an author and documentary filmmaker and a retired professional basketball player. Kareem was recently honored by the Los Angeles Lakers with a statue on the grounds of the Staples Center, the team’s home arena, to commemorate his accomplishments.