Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)


What is chronic lymphocytic leukemia?

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the most common chronic leukemia in adults. About 20,000 people in the United States will develop CLL this year, according to the American Cancer Society. The average age at diagnosis is 72. The disease is twice as common in men as women.

How is CLL diagnosed?

Doctors do a variety of tests to diagnose CLL. These tests look for specific features in the leukemia cells and genetic differences. Changes such as the position of chromosomes and mutations are common in CLL. The results help doctors decide on the best individualized treatment plans.

The treatment recommended for people with CLL varies. Many people who have CLL but don’t have symptoms only need to be observed. People with symptoms may have fatigue, night sweats, or enlarged lymph nodes. Treatments are designed to bring on remission (when no evidence of cancer is visible) or to slow the disease’s growth. Standard treatments generally include a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy, immunotherapy alone, or therapies that target how CLL cells communicate.

Right now, only stem cell (bone marrow) transplantation is considered a cure for CLL. However, this approach is not necessary for most people. It’s only recommended if the CLL is likely to advance or is not well controlled with standard treatments.

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