An initial diagnosis of CLL may be surprising because symptoms may not be present. CLL is often a slow-growing cancer so treatment may be put on hold until it starts to progress. Once it advances to an intermediate or high-risk stage, your doctor will recommend treatment (see here about non-chemo treatment paths CLL patients can expect). Treatment needs to be individualized for patients due to the variations that exist in CLL. Thanks to recent medical advances, non-chemo treatment options like targeted therapies help many CLL patients manage the disease. Talk with a CLL specialist to verify what treatment path is best for you.
Let Your Doctor Know if You Experience Any of These Symptoms:
- Weight loss - Unexplained loss of over 10% of body weight over the course of a 6-month period of time may indicate CLL is progressing
- Extreme tiredness - Extreme fatigue or shortness of breath while doing normal day-to-day activities should be a sign of concern. Fewer red blood cells and an increase in cancer cells can cause fatigue
- Fever and night sweats - Any unexplained fever over 100.4 degrees F (38 degrees C) should be reported. A high fever may cause severe night sweats
- Frequent infections - CLL causes a weakened immune system because there aren’t enough white blood cells to fight infections. If you're getting sick often, contact your CLL specialist
- Abnormal lab tests - Low numbers of red blood cells or platelets are a sign of disease progression. Lymphocytes should also be monitored closely. If they have increased by more than 50 percent in 2 months or doubled in 6 months, it may also signal disease progression
- Enlarged spleen - The spleen is responsible for filtering blood. When abnormal cells build up in the blood, the spleen becomes enlarged. Patients may feel abdominal discomfort or feel like they have a full stomach
- Swollen lymph nodes - Lymph nodes are mainly concentrated in the neck, groin, and armpits. Growing numbers of CLL cells in the lymph nodes will cause them to swell. Patients may feel a lump under the skin in those areas
Once you have been diagnosed with CLL, keep all scheduled check-ups and follow-up with your doctor regularly. If any signs of progression occur, contact your CLL specialist immediately.
about the author
Lisa Foster is a mom of 3 daughters, a puzzle lover, a writer, and a HealthTree advocate. She believes in the mission of the foundation and the team that builds it forward. She calls Houston, Texas home.