Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells in the body, corrupting the DNA of the white blood cells and causing them to grow abnormally. White blood cells affected by chronic lymphocytic leukemia cannot fight infection and tend to multiply rapidly, crowding out healthy white blood cells and affecting the body’s ability to fight infection. These abnormal blood cells are produced in the bone marrow and mature into abnormal cells in the lymph nodes of the body. The condition is typically diagnosed when a physician receives abnormal blood test results for the patient and the course of treatment taken depends on multiple factors, including the health and age of the patient.
More than 75% of the individuals diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia are over the age of 50, leading to the belief that chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a condition that primarily affects older individuals. Men are more likely to be diagnosed with the condition and close to 10,000 people are diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia each year. The condition progresses slowly in the majority of cases, allowing the individuals to live with chronic lymphocytic leukemia for many years. The survival rate varies between 5 years at the lower end of the range to 25 years for the upper range.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is typically diagnosed when the results of a blood test comes back with an abnormally high white blood cell count. Other common symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia include fever, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, loss of appetite, and night sweats. Because the common symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia are typical of many other conditions and infections, the symptoms are usually dismissed as unimportant and individuals believe that the symptoms will resolve themselves on their own or with over the counter medications. The first physical indication of the development of chronic lymphocytic leukemia is swollen lymphatic tissue in the body, especially in the lymph nodes present in the neck, groin, and armpits. As the condition progresses, it also affects the spleen and liver of the patient and can cause anemia and an increases susceptibility to infections.
The treatment methods used to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia can vary depending on a number of factors. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia that is diagnosed in the early stages is typically not treated until the condition progresses into a more active stage. This is because the treatments used for chronic lymphocytic leukemia kill healthy cells as well as cancer cells, so individuals that are not showing symptoms or are not experiencing discomfort may choose to wait to begin treatment to enjoy their quality of life for a while longer. Once treatment begins, the individual may begin to experience adverse side effects from the treatment medications and in some cases, will need to be hospitalized during the treatment period. Aggressive cases of chronic lymphocytic leukemia are treated as soon as diagnosed to prevent complications from the condition appearing and further harming the health of the patient. Although the condition is considered incurable, with the condition’s slow progression and the availability of effective medications, the condition can be managed effectively for many years.
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