Areas Patients with CLL Can Focus On to Maintain Their Health Beyond Treatment


In a recent interview with CURE®, a medical oncologist from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute discussed why it’s important for patients with CLL, regardless of their treatment plans, to keep up on vaccinations and maintain a regular cancer screening schedule.

Because patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) can sometimes be more susceptible to infections and other types of cancers, Dr. Matthew Davids of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has some tips that will help patients stay healthy, whether they are on active treatment or taking a watch-and-wait approach to treatment.

In an interview with CURE®, Davids noted that keeping up on vaccinations and maintaining a regular cancer screening schedule are two ways that patients can take an active role in their health, regardless of their treatment plans.

Editor’s note: This interview was conducted prior to the two emergency use authorizations of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.


So, one thing that's very important is that CLL patient’s kind of stay up to date on other sort of health care maintenance things that they should be doing. An obvious one is vaccinations. We know that patients who have CLL are more susceptible to infections, so basic things like getting a flu shot every year, getting pneumonia shots every five years, even if you're under age 65, getting the Shingrix vaccination to help prevent shingles. And eventually, once we hopefully have a COVID vaccine, getting COVID vaccination. So being mindful of infection risk is important.

The second thing is that CLL patients, by virtue of having the disease, are at a higher risk of developing other forms of cancer. I don't recommend that CLL patients necessarily need additional screening beyond what's recommended for the general population, but they should at least make sure that they're staying up to date on what they're supposed to be doing. Things like colonoscopy, at whatever interval is appropriate for them.

Mammography and gynecological exams for women, these sorts of things are very important to try to catch these early cancers. And one that sometimes gets overlooked is dermatologic surveillance. So, I make sure that all my CLL patients are seeing a dermatologist at least once a year to keep a close eye on their skin for early skin cancers.

Those are all things that should be going on even in CLL patients who are not on active treatment, even if they're on our watch and wait or observation strategy, they need to be mindful of those risks.

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