Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Symptoms and Treatments
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a monoclonal disorder characterized by a progressive accumulation of functionally incompetent lymphocytes in the blood and the bone marrow. White blood cells are important because they fight bacteria and protect the body from possible infections. What Causes Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia is unknown. There is no link to radiation, cancer-causing chemicals, or viruses. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia CLL is the most common form of leukemia found in adults in Western countries. The disease is more common in Jewish people of Russian or East European descent. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia mostly affects adults, around age 70. It is rarely seen under age 40.
Types of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
There are a number of kinds of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and they are classified by the type of lymphocyte involved, such as B-cell or T-cell.B-cell leukemia is the most common type. T-cell leukemia is much less common. Other types include Sézary syndrome and hairy cell leukemia, which is a rare type of leukemia that produces abnormal white blood cells that, when viewed through a microscope, have hair-like projections.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia develops from immature cells called hematopoietic stem cells. Stem cells are produced in the bone marrow and usually mature, or differentiate, into one of a range of different kinds of blood cells. Lymphocytic stem cells mature into T lymphocytes (T cells), B lymphocytes (B cells), or natural killer (NK) cells.
Each of these blood cell types has a specialized role in the immune system. Normal, healthy lymphocytes evolve through their life cycle in an orderly way and eventually die, to be replaced by new cells. In chronic lymphocytic leukemia, changes in the diseased cells (most often B cells, but in rare cases T cells) prevent them from maturing properly, and while they may appear normal under a microscope, they are unable to perform their immune system functions.
Because these cells have lost their ability to mature, they have a much longer lifespan than normal lymphocytes. Over time large numbers of these faulty cells accumulate in the bone marrow and in the tissues of the lymphatic system, displacing normal red and white blood cells and platelets and interfering with other immune system functions. That’s how chronic lymphocytic leukemia occurs.
In chronic lymphocytic leukemia, early Symptoms Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia may be invisible. Symptoms that can occur include:
• Abnormal bruising (occurs late in the disease)
• Enlarged lymph nodes, liver, or spleen
• Excessive sweating, night sweats
• Infections that keep coming back (recur)
• Loss of appetite or becoming full too quickly (early satiety)
• Unintentional weight loss
A doctor might simply detect chronic lymphocytic leukemia after a routine blood test. Most people eventually need to receive cancer-targeting medications, and antibiotics. If cancer persists and spreads to other parts of the body, aggressive radiation treatments, surgery, and blood transfusions may also be necessary.
Chemotherapy is not needed in CLL until patients become symptomatic or display evidence of rapid progression of disease. A variety of chemotherapy regimens are used in CLL. These may include nucleoside analogues, alkylating agents, and biologics, often in combination. Allogeneic stem cell transplantation is the only known curative therapy for chronic lymphocytic leukemia.