Misconceptions about chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) may present a barrier to treatment. As a clinician, it’s important to remain alert of potential misunderstandings your patients may have. Here are 5 myths about CML you might encounter at your practice.

Myth #1: CML Has Clear and Specific Symptoms

Symptoms of CML are common and can be attributed to myriad other conditions. For example1:

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  • Bone pain
  • Reduced appetite
  • Easy bleeding
  • Exhaustion
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss

Myth #2: You Must Be Showing Symptoms to Be Diagnosed With CML

Not only are the symptoms of CML nondescript, oftentimes patients don’t present with any at all. CML is often identified during routine checkups and blood tests for other conditions.

Clinicians generally verify CML via a series of tests2:

  • Blood cell count
  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy
  • Gene tests
  • Blood tests to examine the liver, kidneys, and other body parts
  • Imaging tests such as CT and MRI scans

Myth #3: You Can Be Born With CML

No one is born with CML. Instead, it occurs when the DNA of a bone marrow cell is affected. A person may be more likely to develop CML if3:

  • They are male (CML is slightly more common in men)
  • They are older (risk for CML increases with age)
  • They are exposed to radiation (exposure to high doses of radiation is a risk factor in a small number of patients, however that level of exposure is uncommon)

Myth #4: CML Can’t Be Treated

The standard treatment for CML is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI), of which there are various options and doses. In the event a patient’s CML is not responding to TKIs, they may be treated with an allogeneic stem cell transplant (SCT). SCTs were often used to treat CML prior to TKIs becoming the standard therapy, and they’re still recommended for younger patients.4

Myth #5: Alternative Medicines Can Be Used to Treat CML

There’s no evidence to support alternative medicines as a treatment option for CML. However, the likes of yoga and relaxation techniques may be useful in addressing symptoms of CML such as fatigue.1


1. Chronic myelogenous leukemia. Mayo Clinic. June 11, 2021. Accessed December 30, 2021.

2. If you have chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). American Cancer Society. Revised June 19, 2018. Accessed December 30, 2021.

3. Chronic myeloid leukemia. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Accessed December 30, 2021.

4. Treating chronic myeloid leukemia by phase. American Cancer Society. Revised November 24, 2021. Accessed December 30, 2021.