Equipping with knowledge to improve patient-physician communication and understanding the disease.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a form of cancer, a disease in which cells grow out of control. CLL originates in the bone marrow, where cells form blood. The B lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, are not able to fully mature into healthy cells that effectively fight infection. These leukemia cells may look somewhat normal under a microscope, but they reproduce too rapidly, survive longer than normal cells and crowd out healthy white blood cells. Eventually, the cancerous cells spill into the bloodstream, though it may be years before symptoms arise.
Each year, about 21,000 people are diagnosed with CLL. There are two types of the disease.
Other classifications of the extent of disease include the presence of enlarged lymph nodes, enlargement of the spleen, red cell counts and the presence of fever, chills and/or weight loss.
CLL is most common in older adults and rare in people under 40. The average risk of developing the disease is about 1 in 175, though men are at slightly higher risk than women. About 4,500 people die from CLL per year.
Although CLL is the most common form of leukemia in adults, it shares some features with these types of rare leukemia.
Patients can work with their doctors to help understand their cancer prognosis, treatment benefits and harms, the cost of care, and psychological support options. Be sure to ask the following questions: