What is Leukemia?
Orleans Parish Coroner, Dr. Dwight McKenna, wants you to understand Chronic Lymphocytic
Leukemia (CLL) and know how to notice the signs. Doctors say, each year about 21-thousand
people get diagnosed and about 4,500 people die from the disease.
First off, CLL is the most common leukemia in adults. It starts in the bone marrow, where cells
form blood. The leukemia cells may look somewhat normal under a microscope, but they
reproduce too rapidly, survive longer than normal cells and crowd out healthy white blood cells.
Eventually, experts say, the cancerous cells may spill into the bloodstream and reach a
threshold that defines the patient as having CLL , though it may be years before any symptoms
It’s not certain what causes the disease, but there are some risk factors for you to be aware of.
People over 50 have a higher chance of getting it. People with a family history are among first-
degree relatives are also at higher risk, as are men in general.
Screening for the disease is not recommended, mainly because most cases are sporadic or
random, without any clear risk factory. If you catch it early, CLL can be treated. Treatment for
CLL typically includes single drugs or a combination of medication.
People who have disease progression while taking other lines of therapy might consider a stem cell
transplant. And in some cases, the spleen or lymph nodes become so enlarged that treatment
with radiation or surgery may be in order.
As always, Dr. McKenna says to listen to your body. Tell your doctor of any potential signs or symptoms, including: chills, swollen lymph nodes, fever, night sweats, enlarged spleen with abdominal pain, enlarged liver, and rapid weight loss.