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Cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue, such as the bone marrow, and causes large numbers of abnormal blood cells to be produced and enter the bloodstream.
Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (also called CLL) is a blood and bone marrow disease that usually gets worse slowly. CLL is the second most common type of leukaemia in adults. It often occurs during or after middle age; it rarely occurs in children.Normally, the body makes blood stem cells (immature cells) that become mature blood cells over time. A blood stem cell may become a myeloid stem cell or a lymphoid stem cell.A myeloid stem cell becomes one of three types of mature blood cells:
A lymphoid stem cell becomes a lymphoblast cell and then one of three types of lymphocytes (white blood cells):
Blood cell development. A blood stem cell goes through several steps to become a red blood cell, platelet, or white blood cell.
In CLL, too many blood stem cells become abnormal lymphocytes and do not become healthy white blood cells. The abnormal lymphocytes may also be called leukaemia cells. The lymphocytes are not able to fight infection very well. Also, as the number of lymphocytes increases in the blood and bone marrow, there is less room for healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This may cause infection, anemia, and easy bleeding.This summary is about chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. See the following summaries for more information about leukaemia in the A-Z List of Cancers:
Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk. Risk factors for CLL include the following:
Usually CLL does not cause any symptoms and is found during a routine blood test. Sometimes symptoms occur that may be caused by CLL or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following problems:
The following tests and procedures may be used:
Complete blood count (CBC). Blood is collected by inserting a needle into a vein and allowing the blood to flow into a tube. The blood sample is sent to the laboratory and the red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are counted. The CBC is used to test for, diagnose, and monitor many different conditions.
Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy. After a small area of skin is numbed, a Jamshidi needle (a long, hollow needle) is inserted into the patient’s hip bone. Samples of blood, bone, and bone marrow are removed for examination under a microscope.
An indolent (slow-growing) type of lymphoma in which too many immature lymphocytes (white blood cells) are found mostly in the lymph nodes. This causes the lymph nodes to become larger than normal. Sometimes cancer cells are found in the blood and bone marrow, and the disease is called chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. The disease is most often seen in people older than 50 years. Small lymphocytic lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Also called SLL and well-differentiated lymphocytic lymphoma.
Treatment options depend on:
The prognosis (chance of recovery) depends on:
For more information on Chronic Lymphocytic leukaemia click here
This link is to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) cancer website in the United States. There may be references to drugs and clinical trials that are not available here in Australia.
For information courtesy of Cancer Australia, please click here
Page last updated: 07/05/2020