Treating CLL by stage

Treating stage A

People with stage A CLL don’t usually need treatment. Often, stage A CLL doesn’t cause any symptoms and it develops very slowly. Starting treatment at this stage doesn’t help the CLL and it can cause side effects. Some people with stage A CLL will never need treatment.

It’s still important to go to the hospital or GP surgery for regular check-ups and blood tests. This is to monitor the leukaemia. Usually, you’ll only need to start treatment if you develop symptoms, or your blood test shows that the CLL is progressing. Your doctor will discuss the benefits and disadvantages of treatment with you.

A common symptom of CLL is tiredness (fatigue).

Treating stages B and C

If you have stage B or stage C CLL, you may be offered one or more of the following treatments (or a combination of them):

  • Chemotherapy – This is a common treatment for CLL.
  • Targeted therapies – There are different types of targeted therapies. The most common type used to treat CLL is called a monoclonal antibody. These drugs are often given with chemotherapy.
  • Stem cell transplant – Doctors may suggest this treatment if the CLL hasn’t responded to chemotherapy, or if it’s a type of CLL that’s unlikely to respond to it. It’s an intensive treatment, so is usually only suitable for younger people.
  • Radiotherapy – You may have this if you have enlarged lymph nodes or an enlarged spleen.
  • Supportive therapy – This may be given to help control any symptoms caused by CLL, such as infections or anaemia.
  • Steroids – These might be given if your immune system acts against your red blood cells or platelets
  • Surgery – This is occasionally used to remove an enlarged spleen (splenectomy).
  • Clinical trials – There are many new treatments being looked at to try to improve the outcome for people with CLL. Ask your doctor about any clinical trials you could join.

Back to Understanding your diagnosis

Staging

Staging describes how much leukaemia there is in your body. In the UK, the Binet system is used to stage CLL.

Treatment overview

The aim of treatment is to reduce the number of CLL cells as much as possible.

My Cancer Treatment

Macmillan is supporting a new online tool to help you make decisions about your treatment and care. The tool currently only covers England.