Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia: Survival Rate and Prognosis

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  • What Is Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia?

    What Is Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia?

    Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the result of an overproduction of abnormal lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. Leukemia cells, which are produced in the bone marrow, then spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream.

    CLL usually develops in older adults, not children. There are two types of CLL: slow-growing and fast-growing. Slow-growing CLL may not require treatment for years. Fast-growing CLL is much more serious and demands aggressive treatment.

     

  • Risk Factors

    Risk Factors

    CLL is more common among people in middle or older age. Being Caucasian and male are also risk factors for this type of cancer. Having a family history of CLL or other cancers of the lymph system increase the odds of developing chronic lymphocytic leukemia. People from Eastern European Jewish descent are at higher risk for CLL.

  • Diagnosing Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

    Diagnosing Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

    CLL seldom causes symptoms initially. A routine blood test that shows high levels of lymphocytes is usually the first indication that the disease may have developed. As CLL progresses, you may feel tired and experience pain in the lymph nodes of the stomach, underarm, neck, or groin.

    In addition to a complete blood count (CBC), other lab tests, such as immunophenotyping, will help confirm the diagnosis. Samples of blood, bone, and bone marrow are also examined to determine the type of CLL.

  • How the Disease Is Staged

    How the Disease Is Staged

    CLL is staged differently from most cancers, which are staged based on the size of a tumor. This is because there is usually no single mass of cancer cells with CLL.

    There are two staging symptoms used in CLL. The Binet system is used mostly in Europe, while the Rai system is more commonly used in the United States. Rai staging examines factors such as the enlargement of affected lymph nodes, spleen, and liver. Levels of red blood cells and platelets are also factors used to determine the staging level.

  • Survival Rates

    Survival Rates

    The average five-year survival rate for someone with CLL is between 50 and 80 percent, according to the College of American Pathologists. Research published in the journal Blood found that the five-year survival rate for CLL was 60.2 percent. The 10-year survival rate was 34.8 percent. These figures are based on patients with both types of CLL.

    Someone with the slow-growing form of the disease may expect to live longer than someone with the more aggressive type of CLL.

  • Negative Prognostic Factors

    Negative Prognostic Factors

    Along with the stage of the cancer, other factors can influence the life expectancy of a CLL patient. Factors that can hurt a prognosis include:

    • old age
    • deleted parts of chromosomes 11 or 17 in the leukemic cells
    • high levels of beta-2-microglobulin in the blood

    The same is true for someone whose healthy cells have been replaced by leukemia cells across a diffused area of bone marrow.

  • Positive Prognostic Factors

    Positive Prognostic Factors

    Some encouraging signs that can indicate a better outcome for CLL patients include:

    • a non-diffuse pattern of leukemia cells in bone marrow affected by the disease
    • a deletion of part of chromosome 13 in leukemic cells
    • CLL cells containing low levels of the ZAP-70 or CD38 proteins
  • Chemotherapy and Stem Cell Transplants

    Chemotherapy and Stem Cell Transplants

    Two of the main treatments for CLL include chemotherapy and stem cell transplants. Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs taken orally or injected into a vein. Chemotherapy drugs in the bloodstream are often effective with leukemia, because that cancer exists throughout the body.

    Stem cell transplants are often performed after chemotherapy. New stem cells help restore red blood cells in the bone marrow. This is important because chemotherapy can severely deplete healthy bone marrow.

  • Living with CLL

    Living with CLL

    Unlike some cancers, CLL isn’t entirely curable. But, in many cases it can be treated effectively. People with CLL may live a long time with the disease, receiving treatment off and on for years.

    Joining support groups and developing coping skills to deal with stress and treatment side effects can make a positive difference. Complementary treatments, such as acupuncture for pain and peppermint tea for nausea, can help ease the effects of CLL and its treatment.

     

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