What is chronic lymphocytic leukemia?
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.
According to the American Cancer Society, of the 44,790 leukemia cases expected in 2009, CLL will account for 15,490 cases.
How is chronic lymphocytic leukemia diagnosed?
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for chronic lymphocytic leukemia may include the following:
- blood tests and other evaluation procedures
- bone marrow aspiration and/or biopsy – a procedure that involves taking a small amount of bone marrow fluid (aspiration) and/or solid bone marrow tissue (called a core biopsy), usually from the hip bones, to be examined for the number, size, and maturity of blood cells and/or abnormal cells.
- spinal tap/lumbar puncture – a special needle is placed into the lower back, into the spinal canal. This is the area around the spinal cord. The pressure in the spinal canal and brain can then be measured. A small amount of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) can be removed and sent for testing to determine if there is an infection or other problems. CSF is the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord.
Treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia:
Specific treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia will be determined by your physician based on:
- your age, overall health, and medical history
- extent of the disease
- stage of the disease
- your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- expectations for the course of the disease
- your opinion or preference