Signs and symptoms
CLL symptoms usually develop over time. Early during the disease, CLL often has little effect on a person’s well-being.
Some people with CLL do not have any symptoms. The disease may be suspected because of abnormal results from blood tests that were ordered either as part of an annual physical or a medical examination for an unrelated condition. An unexplained elevated white blood cell (lymphocyte) count is the most common finding that leads a doctor to consider a CLL diagnosis.
Common symptoms include4, 5:
- Fever and night sweats
- Excessive bruising, frequent or severe nosebleeds, bleeding gums
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin
- Fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath during day-to-day physical activities
- Weight loss
- Pain or ‘fullness‘ in the stomach, caused by enlarged spleen
- More frequent infections
It is very important that you speak to your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms, as they may be a sign that your CLL has come back or worsened.
How fast does the disease progress?
CLL progression can vary greatly from person to person. There are people whose disease remains relatively stable and, without treatment, they have no problem, others have a disease which slowly develops over the years before needing treatment and others shows signs of disease that tend to be rapid and more pronounced. Finally, only a minority of people require care from the first moment the CLL is diagnosed.
1. OUP. Concise Colour Medical Dictionary. Sixth edition. Oxford University Press, 2015.
2. Siegel, R., et al. Cancer statistics, 2013. CA Cancer J Clin. 2013;63:11–30.
3. Smolewski, P., et al. New insights into biology, prognostic factors, and current therapeutic strategies in chronic lymphocytic leukemia. ISRN Oncol. 2013:740615.
4. American Cancer Society. Signs and symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Available from: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/leukemiachroniclymphocyticcll/detailedguide/leukemia--chronic-lymphocytic-signs-symptoms . Accessed September 2016.
5. Rai, K.R., et al. Clinical staging of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Blood. 1975;46:219–234.