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