Leukemia--Chronic Lymphocytic Overview

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Treating Leukemia - Chronic Lymphocytic (CLL) TOPICS

Supportive care for chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) often need treatments that are aimed at helping with problems related to the CLL and its treatment. This may include treatments aimed at helping with infections or low blood counts. Although treating the CLL may help these over time, other therapies may be needed as well.

For infections

Some things that can be done to prevent infections include giving antibiotics (or antiviral drugs) before the patient has any signs or symptoms (like a fever). If the patient has low levels of natural antibodies and keeps getting infections, giving antibodies as an infusion into a vein can help. Patients with CLL also should get certain vaccines to help prevent infection. Certain vaccines, though, contain live viruses and should be avoided. Talk to the doctor treating you for your CLL about what vaccines you should get.

Because people with CLL often have poor immune function, they should be sure to tell their doctors about any symptoms of infection right away. These include fever, chills, cough, and problems with their urine (like burning).

For blood count problems

Patients with CLL may need transfusions of red blood cells or platelets when those counts get low. Sometimes, though, low red blood cell or platelet counts are caused by the body destroying the cells. This, called autoimmunity, can be treated with medicines to suppress the immune system, like corticosteroids (prednisone, for example). If that type of treatment doesn’t work. The doctor may recommend different drugs or even having the spleen removed (since the spleen is often the place where the body destroys the cells).

Last Medical Review: 08/05/2013
Last Revised: 11/04/2014