Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a slowly progressing disease characterized by increased, unregulated growth in lymphocytes, a type of white blood cells. These cancerous lymphocytes do not function like normal cells, and their increased production and buildup in the bone marrow and bloodstream can crowd out normal red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, leading the person to be susceptible to anemia, infection and bleeds that do not clot.
One commonly recognized subset of CLL is Hairy Cell Leukemia, named for the cancerous B-cell lymphocytes that have an abnormally "hairy" appearance when viewed under a microscope. Although most hairy cell leukemia is slow-growing, there is a variant (called HCL-V) that is aggressive.
options for patients with CLL include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, active surveillance (regular monitoring until symptoms show) and, in some cases, surgery.
Symptoms associated with CLL include:
Weakness or fatigue
Unexplained weight loss
Enlarged lymph nodes (often felt as lumps under the skin)
Because CLL develops slowly, some patients may not experience symptoms at all and may be diagnosed as a result of a routine blood test.
If your or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms, please contact your doctor for further evaluation, which may include a biopsy for a leukemia diagnosis.
Risk factors associated with CLL include the following:
Age: Average age of diagnosis is 65-70
Gender: CML is more commonly diagnosed in males
Caucasian descent: Particularly those who with Russian or Eastern European Jewish heritage
Family history of blood cancers
Agent Orange exposure
People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor.
Note that having one or more risk factors does not mean that a person will develop CLL. Most people who have risk factors never develop cancer. Likewise, some people who develop leukemia may not have any risk factors present.
If you suspect that you or a loved one may have CLL, please contact your doctor for a medical examination.
If you have been diagnosed with leukemia or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient
or contact us at 800-826-HOPE.
Sources: American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute