Leukemia, chronic lymphocytic

Other names: Chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. The disease progresses slowly and primarily impacts a specific type of white blood cells called lymphocytes, which play a crucial role in fighting infections. CLL commonly affects older adults, and while some individuals may not exhibit early symptoms, others may experience enlarged lymph nodes, fatigue, fever, abdominal pain, night sweats, weight loss, and frequent infections.


When to see a doctor: If you experience any concerning signs and symptoms, it is essential to consult with your healthcare provider.


The exact cause of CLL is unknown; however, it is believed to involve genetic mutations in blood-producing cells. These mutations lead to the production of abnormal lymphocytes that accumulate in the blood and organs, disrupting normal cell function. Ongoing research aims to elucidate the precise mechanisms underlying CLL development.


Factors that may increase the risk of CLL include age (typically diagnosed in individuals over 60), male gender, white race, family history of blood cancers, and exposure to certain chemicals like herbicides. Agent Orange used during the Vietnam War has also been linked to an increased risk of CLL.


Complications associated with CLL include frequent infections, transformation into a more aggressive form of cancer known as Richter's syndrome, increased risk of other cancers such as skin cancer, and immune system abnormalities attacking red blood cells or platelets.


  1. What are common symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia?

Enlarged lymph nodes, fatigue, fever, abdominal pain, night sweats, weight loss, frequent infections.

  1. What are the risk factors for developing chronic lymphocytic leukemia?

Age over 60, male gender, white race, family history of blood cancers, exposure to certain chemicals like herbicides.

  1. How is chronic lymphocytic leukemia diagnosed?

Blood tests to count cells and determine lymphocyte types; flow cytometry for cell analysis; FISH for genetic abnormalities; additional tests like bone marrow biopsy may be done.

  1. What are potential complications of chronic lymphocytic leukemia?

Frequent infections, transformation into aggressive forms of cancer like Richter's syndrome, increased risk of other cancers.

  1. What are treatment options for chronic lymphocytic leukemia?

Watchful waiting for early stages; chemotherapy and targeted drug therapy for intermediate/advanced stages; bone marrow stem cell transplant in certain cases.

  1. How can patients cope with chronic lymphocytic leukemia?

Seek support from healthcare providers, family/friends; join support groups; engage in relaxing activities; stay informed about the disease.

  1. Are there lifestyle changes that can help manage chronic lymphocytic leukemia?

Avoiding infections by maintaining good hygiene practices; reducing the risk of second cancers by adopting a healthy lifestyle; attending all medical appointments regularly.

  1. Are there alternative treatments for chronic lymphocytic leukemia?

No alternative treatments have been proven to cure CLL; some therapies may help cope with fatigue experienced by patients.

  1. What should patients consider before trying alternative treatments for CLL?

Consult with healthcare providers before trying alternative therapies due to potential interactions with medications and side effects.

  1. How can patients find support while dealing with chronic lymphocytic leukemia?

Reach out to family/friends for emotional support; consider joining support groups; explore coping strategies like relaxation techniques or counseling services.