Treating Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Making treatment decisions

After chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is found and staged, your cancer care team will discuss your treatment options with you. Because CLL often grows slowly, not everyone needs to be treated right away. When treatment is needed, the main treatments used are:

Less often, leukapheresis, surgery, or radiation therapy may be used.

It's important to take time and think about your choices. In choosing a treatment plan, the stage of the leukemia and other prognostic factors (see How is Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Staged?) are important. Other factors to consider include whether or not you're having symptoms, your age and overall health, and the likely benefits and side effects of treatment. See Typical Treatment of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia or Treating Hairy Cell Leukemia to learn about common treatment plans.

In considering your treatment options it's often a good idea to get a second opinion , if possible. This could give you more information and help you feel more confident about the treatment plan you choose.

Thinking about taking part in a clinical trial

Clinical trials are carefully controlled research studies that are done to get a closer look at promising new treatments or procedures. Clinical trials are one way to get state-of-the art cancer treatment. In some cases they may be the only way to get to newer treatments. They're also the best way for doctors to learn better methods to treat cancer. Still, they're not right for everyone.

If you'd like to learn more about clinical trials that might be right for you, start by asking your doctor if your clinic or hospital takes part in clinical trials. See Clinical Trials to learn more.

Considering complementary and alternative methods

You may hear about alternative or complementary methods that your doctor hasn’t mentioned to treat your cancer or relieve symptoms. These methods can include vitamins, herbs, and special diets, or other methods such as acupuncture or massage, to name a few.

  • Complementary methods refer to treatments that are used along with your regular medical care.
  • Alternative treatments are used instead of a doctor’s medical treatment. Although some of these methods might be helpful in relieving symptoms or helping you feel better, many have not been proven to work. Some might even be dangerous.

Be sure to talk to your cancer care team about any method you are thinking about using. They can help you learn what's known (or not known) about the method, which can help you make an informed decision. See Complementary and Alternative Medicine to learn more.

Help getting through cancer treatment

Your cancer care team will be your first source of information and support, but there are other resources for help when you need it. Hospital- or clinic-based support services are an important part of your care. These might include nursing or social work services, financial aid, nutritional advice, rehab, or spiritual help.

The American Cancer Society also has programs and services – including rides to treatment, lodging, support groups, and more – to help you get through treatment. Call our National Cancer Information Center at 1-800-227-2345 and speak with one of our trained specialists.

The treatment information given here is not official policy of the American Cancer Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor. Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don't hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.