​Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Similar to acute lymphocytic leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow in which your lymphocytes, a form of white blood cells, get affected. However unlike acute lymphocytic leukemia, it is slow progressing (chronic) and is more common among older people.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia develops when the process of blood cell production fails, leading to the creation of more and more immature white blood cells at the expense of healthy cells.Since lymphocytes are responsible for fighting infection, the absence of creation of lymphocytes deprives the body to do so.

Risk factors typically associated with acute lymphocytic leukemia are:

  • Aging more than 60 years of age

  • Being male

  • Exposure to certain chemicals

  • Family history of leukemia

Common symptoms for chronic lymphocytic leukemia are:

  • Fever

  • Recurrent infections

  • Shortness of breath

  • Weakness and fatigue

  • Swollen lymph nodes or spleen​

Consult a doctor working with the Oncology Service Line at the Aga Khan University Hospital if you persistently experience any of the above signs and symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

To check for chronic lymphocytic leukemia the following tests may be performed:

  • Blood tests – a sample of your blood will be examined to count the number of cells, determine the type of lymphocytes involved, and to help analyse the lymphocytes for any genetic abnormalities. These will help indicate whether you have chronic lymphocytic leukemia or another blood disorder, and can help to determine your prognosis and help to choose a form of treatment.

  • Bone marrow biopsy – a bone marrow biopsy involves removing a small amount of solid tissue of your bone barrow using a needle. It can help to determine your prognosis and provide more information about why other blood counts are coming up as abnormal.  

  • Imaging tests – imaging tests, such as an X-ray, CT or CAT scan, or PET scan, can to determine what parts of your body have been affected by chronic lymphocytic leukemia or which symptoms may be related to the disease. It can also be used to determine the success or progress of treatment. ​

The treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia will depend on your age, overall health and the stage (early, intermediate or advanced) at which chronic lymphocytic leukemia has been diagnosed. Treatment may not be immediately necessary if you are at the early stage. For intermediate or advanced you may be taken into treatment immediately depending on the other factors.

Common treatments for chronic lymphocytic leukemia are:

  • Chemotherapy – this treatment aims to kill cancerous cells by administering drugs either directly into your veins or in the form of an oral pill.

  • Targeted therapy – this form of therapy uses targeted drugs which a specially designed to take advantage of the specific vulnerabilities of your cancerous cells.

  • Bone marrow transplant – this involves using strong chemotherapy drugs to first kill the stem cells that are in your bone marrow that are leading to diseased lymphocytes. Your blood will then be infused with healthy adult blood stem cells that have been received from a donor, which will travel to your bone marrow and start to make healthy blood cells.​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.
The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.
The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.
Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.