Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) develops from young white blood cells in your bone marrow. These cells are called lymphocytes. From the bone marrow, this cancer goes into your blood and spreads throughout the body, such as to the lymph nodes, spleen and liver. CLL cancer cells build up slowly, with many patients not noticing any symptoms for several years.
Leukemia cancer develops in your bone marrow in abnormal cells not maturing as they should. These cells either divide into new cells too rapidly or do not die according to a normal cellular life cycle. This means the cells build up too quickly in your bone marrow and crowd healthy cells, then travelling from the bone marrow through the bloodstream. The blood then often contains too many white blood cells, with the leukemia cells spreading throughout the body and affecting cell functioning in other tissues.
Multiple types of leukemia exist. Each of these require its own type of treatment and present its own outlook. Four primary types of leukemia include:
Leukemias gain classification as either chronic or acute. These differentiations come from whether the abnormal cells are mature like normal white blood cells or immature like stem cells. Chronic leukemia cells do not mature completely and look somewhat like normal mature white blood cells. But they do not fight infection properly, survive too long and build up to a point of crowding healthy cells out of the bone marrow. Chronic leukemias progress more slowly than acute leukemias. People with chronic leukemias live for several years without noticing any problems. But chronic leukemias offer a less optimistic cure rate than acute leukemias.
Differentiation of leukemia as either myeloid or lymphocytic depends on which bone marrow cells develop this cancer. Lymphocytic leukemia begins in cells originally destined to become lymphocytes. Because this leukemia takes place in lymphocytes, many people confuse lymphocytic leukemia with lymphoma. But leukemia takes place mainly in your blood and bone marrow, whereas lymphomas take place in your lymph nodes and other body tissues.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia develops in two ways. One type of CLL grows slowly and affords patients a long time before needing treatment. The other type of CLL grows quickly out of control with greater seriousness. Doctors see which CLL you have according to lab test identification of specific protein levels. Low protein levels point to slowly progressing CLL.