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Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) Information

  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (or "chronic lymphoid leukemia") CLL, is a cancer in which too many lymphocytes (a type of white blood cells) are produced. CLL is the most-diagnosed form of leukemia in adults. Men are twice as likely to develop CLL as women, however the key risk factor is age: over 75% of new cases are diagnosed in patients over age 50. About 7300 new cases of CLL are diagnosed in the U.S. each year...
  • CLL has two subtypes: B-cell and T-cell. The B-cell subtype is the most common form (about 95%) and shows up mainly in the bone marrow and blood. B-cell CLL is closely related to (and some may consider it the same as) a disease called small cell lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL), a type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma expressed primarily in the lymph nodes. (It is likely that most cases referred to as T-CLL are large granular lymphocyte (LGL) leukemia. LGL leukemia is a chronic lymphoproliferative disorder with autoimmune features, many experts deny that T-cell CLL exists).

    Many newly-diagnosed CLL patients have no clinical symptoms at all. Others report a general feeling of ill health, fatigue, low-grade fever, night sweats, swollen lymph nodes, enlarged spleen, frequent infections, weight loss and loss of appetite.

    While considered incurable, CLL progresses slowly in most cases. Many people with CLL lead normal and active lives for many years - in some cases for decades. Because of its slow onset, early-stage CLL is generally not treated since it is believed that early CLL intervention does not improve survival time or quality of life. Instead, the condition is monitored over time.

    The decision to start CLL treatment is taken when the patient's clinical symptoms or blood counts indicate that the disease has progressed to a point where it may affect the patient's quality of life. Clinical "staging systems" such as the Rai 4-stage system and the Binet classification can help to determine when and how to treat the patient.

    CLL treatment focuses on controlling the disease and its symptoms rather than on an outright cure. CLL is treated by chemotherapy, radiation therapy, biological therapy, or bone marrow transplantation. Symptoms are sometimes treated surgically (splenectomy removal of enlarged spleen) or by radiation therapy ("de-bulking" swollen lymph nodes).

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