Lakers Great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Has Leukemia

Broderick Turner of the LOS ANGELES TIMES reports this morning that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has a “rare form of leukemia, but the Lakers legend says his long-term prognosis is very good.”

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Abdul-Jabbar, 62, revealed during an interview Monday that he has Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that produces cancerous blood cells.
The disease was diagnosed in December. But Abdul-Jabbar said his condition can be managed by taking oral medication daily, seeing his specialist every other month and getting his blood analyzed regularly. He said he expects to lead a healthy life.

Abdul-Jabbar said decided to see a doctor last year after he began suffering frequent hot flashes and sweating constantly: “By having the hot flashes, I knew something was up. But I didn’t think that it was going to be something as serious as leukemia.

Thankfully, the form of Leukemia plaguing Abdul-Jabbar though has enjoyed a treatment breakthrough, leading to a very high rate of remission.

Dr. Gary Schiller, with the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCLA, said treatment for this type of leukemia has “dramatically improved” in the last decade thanks to new drugs that produce “remission of really high quality in 85% of patients . . . [who] function normally with very, very few side effects.”

Schiller said that while the drugs do not cure the disease, they do control it, in much the same way high blood pressure is managed by medication.

Abdul-Jabbar noted to Turner that he had a grandfather and uncle who died of colon cancer, which he noted, “So I have the gene for that. Cancer is a scary thing and you have to deal with it seriously.”

Still no word yet on the former NBA great’s status with the Memphis Grizzlies, who have reportedly offered him a position to work with the team’s big men.