Leukemia Treatment Chronic Lymphocytic

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia treatment depends on how far the cancer has progressed at the time of diagnosis. Early stage chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) may not require any treatment, while later stages may respond to chemotherapy for leukemia or stem cell transplants.

Watchful Waiting and Chronic Lymphocytic Treatment

Early stage chronic lymphocytic leukemia is rarely treated. Instead, the disease is monitored until symptoms develop. Chronic lymphocytic treatment is not necessary until the cancer is symptomatic. Early treatment does little to improve disease outcome, and may cause undesirable side effects.

Chemotherapy for Leukemia

Chemotherapy for leukemia is the primary method of chronic lymphocytic leukemia care. The goal of chemotherapy for leukemia is remission, or the death of leukemia cells.

Chemotherapy for chronic lymphocytic leukemia may be given orally or intravenously, depending on the stage of the disease. Chemotherapy for leukemia usually employs two or more medications. For CLL, possible chemotherapy medication includes:

  • Bendamustine
  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Fludarabine.

Targeted Therapies and CLL

Targeted therapies may be used either alone or in combination with chemotherapy for leukemia. Unlike chemotherapy, which targets any fast-growing cells, targeted therapies use medication designed to specifically attack cancer cells, while leaving normal cells unharmed.

Monoclonal antibodies are a type of targeted therapy used in chronic lymphocytic leukemia treatment. Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-grown antibodies that attach to leukemia cells and block cell growth or reproduction. Monoclonal antibodies used to treat CLL include alemtuzumab and rituximab.

Radiation Therapy and Surgery for Leukemia

Radiation therapy is not typically used for chronic lymphocytic treatment. Radiation therapy may be used to shrink a spleen or lymph node enlarged by leukemia cells.

Just as radiation therapy is rarely used to treat CLL, surgery for leukemia is not usually an option. When used for chronic lymphocytic leukemia treatment, surgery for leukemia is usually confined to the removal of an enlarged spleen, which can cause pain if the enlarged organ presses on surrounding tissue.

CLL Prognosis

People with early stage CLL (stage 0 to II) can survive up to two decades without treatment and may not develop symptoms for years. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia diagnosed at stages III or IV, however, have much shorter life spans. These patients are more likely to die within four years of diagnosis without treatment.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia treatment rarely cures the cancer. Instead, the goal is to reduce symptoms and extend lifespan as much as possible. Because over 75 percent of CLL cases are diagnosed after age 60, it’s quite possible to live with CLL without the disease significantly shortening your lifespan.


Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. (2010). Chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Retrieved April 2, 2010, from http://www.lls.org/all_page?item_id=7059#planning.

Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Chronic lymphocytic leukemia: Treatment. Retrieved April 2, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/chronic-lymphocytic-leukemia/treatment.html.

Merck Manuals Online Medical Library. (2008). Chronic leukemia. Retrieved April 2, 2010, from http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec11/ch142/ch142c.html?qt=leukemia