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What Is B-Cell Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia?

Meshell Powell
Meshell Powell

B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia is the most commonly diagnosed form of leukemia. B-cell lymphocytes are specialized types of white blood cells which are instrumental in fighting infection. When these cells become cancerous and begin to spread, they overtake healthy cells and prevent the body from being able to effectively fight infection. Some of the most common symptoms of B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia include fatigue, one or more swollen lymph nodes, shortness of breath, and a swollen spleen. Chemotherapy, radiation treatments, or surgical intervention may be needed in order to treat this disease.

There may not be any noticeable symptoms in the earliest stages of B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia. When symptoms do begin to develop, they often begin slowly, sometimes delaying diagnosis until the disease is quite advanced. Symptoms frequently begin as a feeling of fatigue and loss of appetite. The patient may begin to notice one or more swollen lymph nodes which are generally painless. Weight loss, anemia, and recurrent infections in addition to these other symptoms may indicate the possibility of B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia and warrant further medical evaluation.

Samples of blood from a healthy person and one with leukemia.
Samples of blood from a healthy person and one with leukemia.

Chemotherapy is frequently used as a treatment method for B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia. This involves the use of drugs which contain specialized chemicals designed to destroy cancer cells and slow the progression of the disease. Side effects from chemotherapy are to be expected and may include nausea, vomiting, extreme weakness, and hair loss. Additional medications are often used during treatment in an effort to reduce the severity of nausea and vomiting.

Radiation therapy may be used alone or in conjunction with other treatment methods, such as chemotherapy, to help destroy cancer cells. High levels of radiation are used to help shrink tumors and kill cancerous cells, often slowing the progression of B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The side effects of radiation therapy are similar to those associated with chemotherapy.

Surgical intervention may sometimes be needed in the treatment of B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia. This is most likely needed in cases where the spleen becomes inflamed and at risk for rupture. When this occurs, the spleen must be surgically removed. Other treatment methods, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, may still need to be used in addition to surgical intervention. Any questions or concerns about B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia or the most appropriate treatment methods for an individual situation should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

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    • Samples of blood from a healthy person and one with leukemia.
      By: Alila
      Samples of blood from a healthy person and one with leukemia.