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What is CLL

My husband who is 61 went for his physical and the Dr said she wants him to go to a hematologist to be checked for CLL. This is a man who is never never sick. I don’t understand what is going on.
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1081992 tn?1389903637
COMMUNITY LEADER
Hi, I'm sorry to hear of this possible problem. I would guess that your husband had the usual blood test called a CBC, and that found a very high level of certain blood cells.

CLL stands for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.

Leukemia means this started with one bad blood cell with a dangerous DNA mutation that causes unrestricted multiplying. Lymphocytic means that the particular type of blood cells multiplying are the lymphocytes. Chronic means that the multiplying is of the slower-longer kind, as opposed to 'acute' which is much faster. For some, the CLL grows so slowly that treatment isn't even started immediately.

But an infection can also cause the lymphocytes to multiply a lot.  That is because lymphocytes fight infections, especially virus infections. How can doctors tell if he has an infection or a blood cancer? The actual number of lymphocytes as stated on his CBC would be a big clue to CLL, especially if it's over 10,000.

(Some infections don't give any sign of their presence, they're called 'occult infections'.)

Does he have any strange bumps, such as in the neck, underarms or groin?

Did he have the test called a 'blood smear' where they look at the blood cells with a microscope?

The hematologist might order advanced tests on the blood cells. Unfortunately, it's not a very quick process. I will help you understand what is happening along the way, if you like.

The cause of CLL is not really known. It does mostly happen in people over 50. In some, chemical exposure might be a factor. Otherwise, it's mostly just chance.
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1 Comments
Thank you for the information.
He has no bumps anywhere. He had a  Cbc which showed some abnormalities that led them to the CLL. He is supposed to go to the Hematologists for further testing to confirm the diagnosis. Is there ever a chance that it is misdiagnosed?
1081992 tn?1389903637
COMMUNITY LEADER
From what you have posted, at this point there is possibly only a suspicion that there might be CLL. The most important thing for now is to know the "absolute number of  lymphocytes". On the CBC report, this would be a line that says something like:
- lymphocytes abs
or
- lymphs #

(The line that says % doesn't matter.)

Usually, a doctor wants to see a high absolute number of  lymphocytes for 3 months before becoming too concerned. Or having a VERY high number, like 100 (which stands for 100,000), would mean that there most likely is CLL or some other blood cancer. Or else for example having high lymphocytes together with very low red blood cells and/or very low platelets would also be  concerning.

Are you sure that a "blood smear" was not done yet? In CLL, the lymphocytes are fragile, so they break up when put on the glass slide to be looked at.

Your husband is lucky to have you helping him like this. You can, for now, look at the visit to the hematologist as a chance to "rule out" CLL, which means to eliminate CLL as the cause. Then the doctors would look for some non-cancer cause.

Anyway, I wouldn't be convinced that it is CLL until the advanced test called "flow cytometry" was done.


If you don't have a copy of the CBC, can you get that and post it here?

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No I don’t have a copy of the CBC at this time. He faxed it to the Hemotologists office. He doesn’t know if they did a blood smear. I think right now he is still overwhelmed by the news. I will update as soon as I have more information. Thank you
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