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Chronic leukaemia is used to describe the type of cancer that tends to progress slowly over the course of many years. People with chronic leukaemia often show few symptoms for many years. This means that the condition is often diagnosed coincidentally, during routine check-ups or blood tests for other issues. Chronic leukaemia is further classified according to the type of white blood cells affected by cancer – chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) affects the lymphocyte cells.
All types of leukemia originate in the bone marrow, which is the spongy material found inside bones and contains a specialised type of cell called stem cells. CLL is more common in older people, with most cases occurring in people over 60 years of age*. For reasons that are unknown, men are more likely to develop chronic lymphocytic leukaemia than women.
In its early stages, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia doesn’t usually cause any noticeable symptoms. As the condition develops, symptoms can include:
If any of these symptoms apply to you, or if you have any concerns about similar symptoms, it is essential that you see your doctor at once, as your chances of recovery are much higher if your cancer is diagnosed early.
If you are referred to CCL for diagnosis, your consultant or oncologist will advise you as to which tests are relevant. Once CLL is suspected, or if any symptoms are shown, tests to diagnose include:
At CCL, patients with CLL are treated by a specialist multidisciplinary team headed by Professor Ray Powles, CBE. This team works together to create a treatment plan to suit the individual needs of the patient. As most people diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia don’t have symptoms, immediate treatment isn’t usually recommended. Some people can live for years or decades with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia without developing symptoms or needing treatment, as there is no advantage to starting treatment before symptoms appear.
In such cases, a policy of “watchful waiting” is usually recommended, which involves regular visits to your doctor and blood tests so that your condition can be closely monitored.
Once symptoms are present, treatment usually involves:
Treatment can’t cure chronic lymphocytic leukaemia completely, but it can slow its progression and lead to remission (periods where there are no signs or symptoms).
We offer a wide range of services for patients, as well as their loved ones, designed to make a very difficult time as easy as possible, and to give our patients the best treatment and support possible. Our support services include a specialist counselling, specialist physiotherapy, group sessions and much more. You can find the full range of our support services here.
We’ll be with you every step of the way.
If you have any questions about chronic leukaemia or would like to book an appointment with one of our chronic leukaemia specialists, complete this form online or call 020 8247 3351