What is it?

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (also called CLL) is a type of leukemia (cancer of the blood and bone marrow) of the white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are part of the immune system and their role is to fight infections. In CLL, the rate of production of these cells goes out of control, resulting in a large amount of abnormal lymphocytes that do not function properly. Additionally, their excess amount in the blood and bone marrow interferes with other blood cells (such as red blood cells and platelets) to function properly.
CLL is considered a chronic type of leukemia, meaning it progresses slowly (as opposed to acute leukemia), may not cause any symptoms and even may not require any treatment. However, it may, over time, transform to another, more aggressive, form of cancer. CLL also cause increased risk of other cancers and risk of immune system problems.
CLL is one of the most common types of leukemia in adults, usually occur around the age of 70.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Chronic Lymphoid Leukemia

Signs & symptoms

In the beginning, CLL does not cause any signs or symptoms and may be found during a routine blood test. Later, signs and symptoms may occur, such as painless swelling of the lymph nodes, weakness or feeling tired, Increased incidence of fever and infections, easy bruising or bleeding, weight loss and night sweats.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis process of CLL begins with a doctor's examination. Further testing will be necessary:
- blood tests, including blood count and blood chemistry studies. In addition, blood tests are also used to determine the type of lymphocytes involved and to analyze the lymphocytes for genetic abnormalities.
- Bone marrow test, in which a sample of bone marrow is taken using a needle inserted into the hipbone or another bone.
- Imaging tests, such as CT or PET-CT.

After performing these tests, your doctor will assess the extent (stage) of the disease. Staging scales for CLL are called Rai and Binet staging systems.

Treatment

Early-stage, asymptomatic CLL does not require treatment. Instead, close monitoring will be performed (Watchful waiting).
In cases of symptomatic, progressing, or advanced-stage disease, Different types of treatment are available:
- Chemotherapy - treatment that kills quickly growing cells.
- Targeted therapy - treatment that targets cancer cells specifically.
- Immunotherapy - treatment that activates the immune system to fight cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy - treatment that uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells.
- Bone marrow transplant - treatment in which healthy marrow from a donor is transplanted and creates new healthy blood cells instead of cancerous cells.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

Learn more about our editorial process for content accuracy.

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