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Chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia - What it is

​Our body produce various kind of white blood cell as part of the immune system and one of them is called lymphocytes. Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is a disease of lymphocytes, where there is a high lymphocyte cell count in the circulating blood and associated enlarged lymph nodes. There is a similar condition called small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL) which shares the same disease characteristic but present with enlarged lymph node without high lymphocytes cell count in the blood. 

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia - Symptoms

​There are various stages of CLL. Some patients may have early stages and do not have any symptoms. Patients may live with CLL without treatment for long periods of time. This is what is called watch-and-wait management. However, a proportion of patient may present at or progress to higher stages and have symptoms such as fatigue, loss of weight or appetite, lymph node swelling or bleeding. This may indicate the disease has affected your normal well-being and bone marrow function. On some occasions, the lymph node swelling may compress on vital organs. This is the time when treatment is needed.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia - How to prevent?

​At present there is no routine screening for CLL.
Individuals should seek medical attention if they have any of the above symptoms.

Currently there are also no proven preventive strategies for CLL. However, adopting a healthy lifestyle may help to prevent disease. This includes: 
  • Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
  • Quitting or not starting smoking
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Regular exercise

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia - Causes and Risk Factors

​There are no definitive causes of CLL. 

Factors associated with an increased risk of CLL include:
  • Age: CLL usually occurs in older adults
  • Race: CLL is more common among people of European descent

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia - Diagnosis

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia - Treatments

​Every patient with CLL will have an individualized management plan which will be discussed between you and your doctor. Some patients may benefit from just a watch-and-wait approach whereas some may need immediate treatment. Your doctor would be able to advice you on this.

For treatment of CLL, there has been a great evolution in the last decade with targeted-therapy (like ibrutinib and venetoclax) and immunotherapy (like rituximab or obinutuzumab) playing important roles for both upfront or relapse CLL cases. Targeted-therapy and immunotherapy selectively attack the CLL cells and therefore reduces the effect on your normal cells. 

In SGH, we have the privilege of being able to prescribe some of the newest drug in both clinical and research setting. A small proportion of patient may benefit from usual chemotherapy approach. You can discuss the options of treatment with your doctor based on disease risk profile and the potential side effects.  


Chronic lymphocytic leukemia - Preparing for surgery

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia - Post-surgery care

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia - Other Information

The information provided is not intended as medical advice. Terms of use. Information provided by SingHealth

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