Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Information
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What Is Leukemia?
Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the developing white blood cells (leukocytes) in the bone marrow. White blood cells are a fundamental component of the body's immune response. There are different types of white blood cells which specialize in a particular kind of immune function or response. For example, lymphocytes are a kind of white blood cell that make antibodies and defend against viruses. Leukemia is a disease that occurs when white blood cells become malignant (cancerous) as abnormal cells begin to reproduce uncontrollably.
What Is Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia?
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a typically slow-growing cancer which begins in lymphocytes in the bone marrow and extends into the blood. It can also spread to lymph nodes and organs such as the liver and spleen. CLL develops when too many abnormal lymphocytes grow, crowding out normal blood cells and making it difficult for the body to fight infection.
Chronic Versus Acute Leukemia
The term "chronic" means that the disease develops slowly. The abnormal lymphocytes take longer to develop and multiply. A disease like chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), therefore, may take several years before it becomes serious. Comparatively, the progression of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is very quick. ALL may advance in a much shorter period.
"Chronic" leukemia cells do not mature all the way, so they are not as capable of defending against infections as normal lymphocytes. "Acute" leukemia cells begin to replicate before any immune functions have developed. Patients with acute lymphocytic leukemia tend to have lower immune function than those with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
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