Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia

Author: Louise Newson, general practitioner, Solihull. Reviewed by Donald Milligan, oncologist Birmingham. Updated by Emma Lackey, general practitioner Newcastle upon Tyne.

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Key learning points

  • Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is a malignancy of B-lymphocyte cells.
  • It is the commonest type of leukaemia in the UK, predominantly affecting older people, often found incidentally on a blood test taken for another reason.
  • Symptoms can include frequent infections, enlarged lymph nodes and tiredness.
  • If any leukaemia is suspected in an adult, a full blood count (FBC) should be performed within 48 hours.
  • Treatment decisions are based on factors including patient symptoms, comorbidities and preferences, disease staging and the presence of specific molecular markers.
  • Treatment may begin with a watch and wait policy, followed by active treatment.
  • While CLL is not usually curable, the slow progression of the disease means many people die of other unrelated conditions.

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