CLL affects white blood cells that help body fight infection
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is one of the four main types of leukemia, or blood cancer that forms in the bone marrow. CLL affects a particular type of white blood cells called lymphocytes, which fight infection in our bodies. Lymphocytes can be found in the bone marrow as well as in the tonsils and adenoids, the respiratory and digestive systems, the lymph nodes, spleen and thymus gland. With chronic lymphocytic leukemia, the lymphocytes multiply abnormally and squeeze out the healthy, normal cells.
As with other types of cancer, the disease can move quickly or slowly. Most often, however, the abnormal cells build up slowly over time and may cause no symptoms at all for the first few years.
Risk factors for CLL are not well known and symptoms are rare
There are no known causes of chronic lymphocytic leukemia though certain factors may put you more at risk, including:
- Gender (older white males)
- Ethnicity (Eastern European or Russian Jews)
- Family history (parent, child or sibling with CLL)
A connection has also been made between CLL and exposure to herbicides such as Agent Orange, which was used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam conflict.
Symptoms of CLL, though rare, may include:
- Feeling of fullness under the ribs
- Loss of appetite
- Lymph node pain (in the underarm, neck, stomach or groin)
- Night sweats
- Recurring infections
- Unexplained weight loss
CLL is often found incidentally when blood work is done for something else.
A combined, multidisciplinary approach to chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Only a diagnostic test can determine if you have chronic lymphocytic leukemia. If you do have the disease, your doctor will explore your treatment options with you, which may include some combination of chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, and in some cases, surgery and stem cell transplant.
Main Line Health is here to provide you with personalized care and advanced therapies to treat and support you in all stages of CLL.