Chronic Lymphoid Leukaemia


What is it?

Chronic lymphoid leukaemia is a form of blood cancer and affects a specific type of cell in the blood called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes help the body to fight off infections. In chronic lymphocytic leukaemia too many lymphocytes are made in an unorganised manner which causes the symptoms of the disease. It is unknown what exactly causes the cancer to develop.


Who gets it?

Chronic lymphoid leukaemia is a disease of older people with most diagnosed around the age of 65 years. It is more common in males then females.


What are the symptoms?

The majority of patients will have no symptoms and it will be picked up when performing a blood test for another reason. If patients do develop symptoms these include; long term gland swelling in the neck, armpit or groin and enlarged liverAn organ in the right upper abdomen which has many functions including the removal of toxic substances from the blood and production many vital nutrients. and spleenAn organ in the left upper abdomen which removes old red blood cells from the blood - causing lumps under the rib cage. Patients can get repeated infections as they cannot clear infections properly. Patients can also feel generally unwell suffering with night sweats, weight loss and feeling tired.


How is it diagnosed?

Standard blood tests are important especially when blood cells are then looked at under a microscope. More specialist blood tests can look at the cells in more detail to confirm the diagnosis. Sometimes a bone marrow biopsy is performed but this is not always necessary if the diagnosis is clear from the other tests


How is it treated?

Treatment is not always needed. This may sound unusual, giving no treatment to a form of cancer. However it can be a very mild form of cancer which does not cause significant harm to the body. Patients are seen regularly by a specialist to monitor the disease. If the disease does progress and there are signs it is causing harm to the body then treatment in the form of chemotherapy is given.


Further information

Chronic lymphoid leukaemia at Macmillian cancer support

Chronic lymphoid leukaemia at NHS choices



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Written by: Dr T Rider

Editor: Dr J Newman

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