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Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

It is estimated that each year 15,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is the most common form of adult leukemia.  It’s a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia generally develops at a slower rate than other types of cancers. It affects a group of white blood cells called lymphocytes, that help fight infections.

How does CLL Develop?

The CLL disease process typically starts when a genetic mutation in the DNA of blood-producing cells.  This mutation causes the production of abnormal, ineffective lymphocytes.  These abnormal cells continue to multiply and accumulate in the blood and certain organs. The abnormal cells may crowd healthy cells out of the bone marrow and interfere with normal blood cell production.

What are the Risk Factors for CLL?

There are certain factors that may increase the risk of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, such as your age, family history, and exposure to chemicals.  Chronic lymphocytic leukemia occurs most often in older adults, usually in their 70s. A family history of chronic lymphocytic leukemia may also increase your risk. Finally, exposure to certain chemicals, such as pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, solvents, and benzene, have been linked to an increased risk of chronic lymphocytic leukemia.  Workers in the farming and agricultural industries, petroleum industries, rubber industry, and mining industry have an increased risk of chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Typical Symptoms and Treatment Options for CLL

Many people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia do not show symptoms. However, when symptoms do occur, symptoms may include fever, fatigue, weight loss, enlarged lymph nodes, bone pain, and frequent infections. Doctors may conduct a series of tests, such as blood tests, bone marrow tests, and imaging tests, to diagnose chronic lymphocytic leukemia.  Treatment options for chronic lymphocytic leukemia depend on several factors, such as the stage of your cancer, whether you’re experiencing signs and symptoms, your overall health, and your individual preferences for treatment.  Common treatments of chronic lymphocytic leukemia may include chemotherapy, targeted drug therapy, immunotherapy, or bone marrow transplant

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