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Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL): Facts about symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

  • Posted on- Oct 15, 2015
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Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is a type of cancer that affects a type of white blood cell called a “lymphocyte.” In patients of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, the abnormal cells crowd other types of cells in the bone marrow, preventing the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen, other types of normal white blood cells, and platelets that are needed for clotting.

Adults are vulnerable to chronic lymphocytic leukaemia than any other form of leukaemia. It usually grows slowly and may not depict symptoms for a long time.

People who receive medical care live longer today because doctors are diagnosing chronic lymphocytic leukaemia earlier.

Signs and symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia does not have symptoms for a while. But overtime, you may show some signs including:


Tests and diagnosis for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia

Your doctor may suggest different tests and procedures in order to identify chronic lymphocytic leukaemia including:
  • Count the number of cells in a blood sample: A complete blood count may be used to count the number of lymphocytes in a blood sample. A high number of B cells, one type of lymphocyte, may indicate chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.
  • Determine the type of lymphocytes involved: Flow cytometry test helps determine whether an increased number of lymphocytes is due to chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, a different blood disorder or an infection. If chronic lymphocytic leukaemia is present, flow cytometry may also help analyze the aggressiveness of these leukaemia cells.
  • Analyze lymphocytes for genetic abnormalities: Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) test checks the chromosomes inside the abnormal lymphocytes to look for abnormalities.

In addition to above mentioned procedures, your doctor may further perform bone marrow biopsy and aspiration and imaging tests such as computerized tomography (CT).

Available treatments for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia

If the cancer is in its early stages, treatment may not be required. However, if the cancer has advanced, your doctor may recommend the following treatment options for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia:
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that destroys cancer cells. It can be administered through a vein or taken in pill form. Depending on your condition, your doctor may use a single chemotherapy drug or a combination of drugs.
  • Targeted drug therapy: Targeted drugs are designed to take advantage of the specific vulnerabilities of your cancer cells.
  • Bone marrow stem cell transplant: Bone marrow stem cell transplants use strong chemotherapy drugs to execute the stem cells in your bone marrow that are creating diseased lymphocytes. Then healthy adult blood stem cells from a donor are infused into your blood, where they travel to your bone marrow and begin making healthy blood cells.

Your doctor will regularly monitor you for any complications later on. Supportive care measures may help prevent or relieve any signs or symptoms.