Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia is a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells and tends to progress slowly over many years.

It mostly affects people over the age of 60 and is rare in people under 40.Children are almost never affected.

In chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL),the spongy material found inside some bones (bone marrow)produces too many white blood cells called lymphocytes thataren't fully developed and don't work properly.

Over time this can cause a range of problems, such as an increased risk of picking up infections, persistent tiredness, Swollen glands in the neck, armpits or groin, and unusual bleeding or bruising.

CLL is differentfrom other types of leukaemia, including chronic myeloid leukaemia , acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and acute myeloid leukaemia .

This page covers:

Symptoms of CLL

Treatments for CLL

Outlook for CLL

Causes of CLL

Support groups and charities

Symptoms of CLL

CLL doesn't usually cause any symptoms early on and may only be picked up during a blood test carried out for another reason.

When symptoms develop, they may include:

  • getting infectionsoften
  • anaemia persistent tiredness, shortness of breath and pale skin
  • bleeding and bruising more easily than normal
  • a high temperature (fever)
  • night sweats
  • Swollen glands in yourneck, armpits or groin
  • swelling and discomfort in your tummy
  • unintentional weight loss

You should visit your GP if you have any persistent or worrying symptoms. These symptoms can have other causes other than cancer, but it's a good idea to get them checked out.

Treatment may be repeated if the condition comes back.

Younger, healthier people who are diagnosed whenCLL isstill in the early stages generally have the best outlook.

Although it can't normally be cured, treatment can help control the condition for many years.

Overall, aroundthree in everyfour people with CLL will live at least five years after diagnosis, but this can range from 10 years or more if caught early on, to less than a year if caught at a very advanced stage.

Causes of CLL

It's not clear what causes CLL. There's no proven linkwith radiation or chemical exposure, diet or infections. You can't catch it from anyone else or pass it on.

However, having certain genes can increase your chances of developing CLL. You may be at a slightly higher risk of it if you have a close family member with it, although this risk is still small.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Nov 2016