Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is one of several forms of blood cancers that starts in the bone marrow. Unlike acute forms of leukemia, chronic variations may go undetected for years before they cause symptoms. If you are diagnosed with CLL, there are several treatments available to manage the disease.
Watch And Wait
The idea of watching a form of cancer may seem odd, but in some cases of CLL, there is little reason to proceed with treatment. Your doctor may order additional tests and likely refer you to an oncologist for further evaluation. The oncologist will want to determine the stage of the disease, which may dictate your treatment. Unlike other forms of cancer, CLL is already part of the immune system; it is a matter of determining which organs may be involved and whether or not these organs are part of the immune system or not. If there is no evidence of cancer in many lymph nodes and your blood work is relatively normal, your oncologist may simply schedule regular checkups. Depending on your age, other health conditions, and how rapidly CLL spreads, you may never need treatment.
In some instances, there may be numerous abnormal lymphocytes in your blood that requires prompt treatment before it causes dangerous complications. There may not be sufficient time to wait for chemotherapy or other treatments to work, so your oncologist might schedule you for leukapharesis. Leukapheresis is similar to plasma donation where you are connected to two lines; one collects blood, while the other line returns your blood. In this instance, the goal is to remove excess lymphocytes from the blood so they do not crowd normal cells or cause blockages in smaller blood vessels. The procedure can take several hours to complete and is not curative, but can stall dangerous complications from CLL until you can begin standard treatments.
The most common treatment for CLL is chemotherapy. Typically, you will have multiple treatments over the course of several weeks before you have a break in treatment. In some cases, people with CLL need to remain in the hospital because the goal of chemotherapy in these types of cancers is to kill many of the immune cells, which will also leave you vulnerable to infection. Unfortunately, CLL can be especially difficult to cure, and you may need multiple rounds of chemotherapy if the cancer does not respond fully or if there is a relapse in the future. Those who did not have success after chemotherapy may be a candidate for a stem cell transplant.
Fortunately, CLL is a form of cancer that progresses slowly, but it may be in a later stage when it is diagnosed. There are several treatments available to potentially manage the disease, or in some cases, cure CLL.Share
23 January 2018
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