Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL, is a form of leukemia in which the bone marrow makes too many white blood cells, which are what the body uses to help fight off infections. When there are too many of these white blood cells, they’re called B-lymphocytes.

Every person’s disease is different, with individually unique genes and molecules driving that disorder. At the OSUCCC – James, our leukemia subspecialists are world-renowned experts who focus solely on blood and bone marrow disorders and who reach across medical disciplines (hematologists, radiation oncologists, molecular and biological pathologists, genetic scientists and more) to design the very best treatment plan and therapies to target each patient’s specific leukemia.

And by offering access to the country’s most advanced clinical trials right here at the OSUCCC – James, patients know that additional options, when needed, are always available for their treatment and care.

What Is Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia?

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a cancer that affects the bone marrow, where all new blood cells are made, by creating too many white blood cells (called lymphocytes).

For patients with CLL, the lymphocytes begin to build up, creating what are called abnormal B-lymphocytes. As these abnormal cells continue to accumulate in the blood and bone marrow, they crowd out the healthy white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets, making it harder for the body’s immune system to fight off infections.

Those infections, which often occur repeatedly, can range from colds and cold sores to pneumonia and other serious illnesses.

CLL is usually slow to develop because the B-lymphocytes continue to build over time. Because of this, many CLL patients don’t have symptoms for years, but as the disease progresses, it can invade other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, liver and spleen.

There are two types of CLL: slow-growing and fast-growing. The experts at the OSUCCC – James offer specific tests to determine which CLL type a patient has.

CLL accounts for about one-third of all new cases of leukemia, and more than 15,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with CLL each year. The disease occurs most often in men, and the average age at diagnosis for both men and women is 72.

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Diagram

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Symptoms

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) symptoms sometimes take years to develop, and most people live symptom-free at first, especially early on in the disease.

When symptoms do begin, patients may feel more tired and short of breath, even during regular activities. They may also experience weight loss because of a decreased appetite.

Other CLL symptoms include:

  • Weakness
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Fever
  • Infections
  • Night sweats
  • Painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, stomach or groin
  • Pain or fullness below the ribs
  • Feeling very tired

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

Having symptoms does not necessarily mean you have CLL. But if you have symptoms, you should tell your doctor, especially if symptoms are severe or have continued for longer than a few weeks.

If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, would like a second opinion or would like to speak with a leukemia specialist, please call The James Line at 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

Toward a Cancer-Free World Blog

The promising targeted medicine acalabrutinib has shown strong success by turning off a protein found in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The therapy, which was developed at The James, has improved the quality of life for some CLL patients, often allowing for a return to regular daily activities. Read More

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