Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) causes a slow increase in white blood cells called B lymphocytes, or B cells. Cancer cells spread through the blood and bone marrow, and can also affect the lymph nodes or other organs such as the liver and spleen. CLL eventually causes the bone marrow to fail.
IThe cause of CLL is unknown. There is no link to radiation, cancer-causing chemicals, or viruses.
This cancer mostly affects adults, around age 70. It is rarely seen under age 40. The disease is more common in Jewish people of Russian or East European descent.
Symptoms usually develop slowly over time. Many cases of CLL are detected by blood tests done in people for other reasons or who do not have any symptoms.
Other cancers, including a much more aggressive lymphoma (Richter’s transformation)
Side effects of chemotherapy
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call health care provider if you develop enlarged lymph nodes or unexplained fatigue, bruising, excessive sweating, or weight loss.
Kantarjian H, O'Brien S. The chronic leukemias. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011: chap 190.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. National Comprehensive Cancer Network Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphomas. 2012. Version 1.2012.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.