Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood and it causes an increase in number of certain types of white blood cells1. The different forms of leukemia are classified depending on which type of white blood cell numbers have increased and according to the disease's rate of progression. The four major types of leukemia are chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Each type of leukemia has its own characteristics and treatment.
What is CLL?
It can come as quite a shock when you are first diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). You probably have a few questions and concerns. The objective of this is to give you some background information about this condition and to tell you a bit about what to expect. You play the most important role in your treatment, so it is important that you feel well-informed about your care and understand the steps ahead.
Many people diagnosed with slow-growing blood cancers don’t need treatment straightaway. Some people do not have any troublesome symptoms when they are first diagnosed and, hence, do not have treatment at this time.
Because now we have many very effective treatments to reduce the CLL, therapy will be introduced only when the disease becomes more substantial, or when there are clear signs that the disease is progressing. Doctors generally decide to initiate the treatment when you start to experience symptoms:
- Fatigue, severe weight loss, drenching night sweats,
- Swollen lymph nodes
Or your blood test results show evidence that the disease is developing quickly.
Every patient is carefully evaluated with the characteristics of CLL (how far and to what stage the blood cancer has developed) and the treatment is tailor-made individually for each case. The choice of treatment usually takes into account the age, the physical state, also called performance status, as well as the presence or absence of other diseases associated with CLL (comorbidities). This assessment is especially important for those who are older, to provide not only effective therapy, but also a cure with acceptable toxicity.
Before the final decision is also important to evaluated some biological characteristics of leukemic cells. The presence of certain genetic alterations in fact directs the most appropriate treatment option.