Leukemia--Chronic Lymphocytic Overview

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Treating Leukemia - Chronic Lymphocytic (CLL) TOPICS

Supportive care for chronic lymphocytic leukemia

People with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) often need supportive care treatments to help with problems related to the CLL and its treatment. For example, some people with CLL have problems with infections or low blood counts. Although treating the CLL may help these over time, other therapies may be needed as well.

For infections

To help prevent infections, you might be given antibiotics or antiviral drugs, even before you have any signs or symptoms (like a fever). If you have low levels of natural antibodies and keeps getting infections, getting antibodies as an infusion into a vein can help. People 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, be sure to tell your doctors about any symptoms of infection right away. These include fever, chills, cough, and problems with their urine (like burning).

For blood count problems

People 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 is called autoimmunity, and can be treated with medicines to suppress the immune system, like corticosteroids (prednisone, for example). If that type of treatment doesn’t work, your doctor may recommend different drugs or even having the spleen removed (since the spleen is often the place where the body destroys the cells).

For more information about this, see our document Leukemia: Chronic Lymphocytic.

Last Medical Review: 01/30/2015
Last Revised: 01/30/2015