What Is Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)?
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a cancer of the blood in which too many lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, are produced by the bone marrow and by organs of the lymph system.
Normally, most lymphocytes fight infection by making antibodies that attack harmful elements. But, in CLL, the cells are immature and overabundant. They crowd out other blood cells, and may collect in the blood, bone marrow, and lymph tissue. CLL is a slowly progressing disease.
CLL is found almost exclusively in adults. It is rare in people younger than age 40 and is extremely rare in children. Most develop the disease after age 60.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is the most common adult leukemia. The average age at diagnosis is 70 and often individuals are without symptoms. Many do not need immediate treatment and can go for years before treatment is required.
Symptoms of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)
Early in the disease, there may be no noticeable symptoms, and many cases are diagnosed from routine blood tests. The following are the most common symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.
Symptoms may include:
- Persistent weakness or fatigue
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Enlarged spleen, which can cause loss of appetite
- Enlarged liver
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Frequent infections
- Easy bruising or bleeding
The symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia may resemble other blood disorders or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
Stage 0 CLL
In stage 0, your blood has too many lymphocytes, called lymphocytosis. You have more than 5,000 to 10,000 lymphocytes per cubic millimeter. You don’t have any other signs or symptoms of leukemia. This stage is considered low risk, which means people tend to have longer survival rates and generally have no or few symptoms.
Stage 1 CLL
In stage 1 (I), your blood has too many lymphocytes, called lymphocytosis, and your lymph nodes are larger than normal. This stage is considered intermediate risk.
Stage 2 CLL
In stage 2 (II), your blood has too many lymphocytes, called lymphocytosis, and your liver may be swollen, called hepatomegaly. Or your spleen may be swollen, called splenomegaly. Or they may both be swollen. Your lymph nodes may also be larger than normal. This stage is also considered intermediate risk.
Stage 3 CLL
In stage 3 (III), your blood has too many lymphocytes, called lymphocytosis, and you have too few red blood cells, called anemia. Your lymph nodes, liver, or spleen may also be larger than normal. This stage is considered high risk.
Stage 4 CLL
In stage 4 (IV), your blood has too many lymphocytes and too few platelets, called thrombocytopenia. Your lymph nodes, liver, or spleen may be larger than normal, and you may have too few red blood cells. This stage is considered high risk.