Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia is a type of cancer affecting white blood cells called lymphocytes.
In CLL, the bone marrow, where the blood cells are made, produces too many lymphocytes which are not fully developed and do not work properly.
These cells increase in umber in the blood over time. They also accumulate in the lymph nodes, spleen and other tissues. Sometimes CLL is found in other tissues when patients are having surgery for unrelated conditions.
When the abnormal lymphocytes accumulate mainly in the lymph nodes, the disease is referred to as Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma (SLL).
Many patients have no symptoms at all, and the disease is found when a patient has a routine blood test.
Other people have symptoms such as
- Easy bruising
- A swollen or tender abdomen, especially on the left
- Frequent infections
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits and groins
Investigations can include blood tests, CT or PET scans, and bone marrow biopsy. Some blood tests need to be sent away and may take a few weeks to be reported. These are specialist tests which can help your doctor decide on which treatment is the best one for you.
Many patients do not need any treatment at all, and in quite a few cases, the disease progresses at a very slow rate and will not need any monitoring or just a yearly blood test.
Other patients will need one or more courses of treatment during their lifetime, with either combinations of chemotherapy or sometimes targeted therapies.
For more information about CLL: