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Living With CLL: Doctor Shares Advice for New Patients

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Published on October 12, 2020

What Should Patients Know About Living with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia?

Are you or a loved one living with CLL, seeking advice after a CLL diagnosis, or wanting to learn more about the disease? We’ve got you covered! Chronic lymphocytic leukemia doctor and specialist, Dr. Kerry Rogers of the Division of Hematology at The Ohio State University, is here to share her advice for new and current CLL patients. This includes how to make CLL fit within the context of your life, when the right time for treatment is, and what tests you should ask your doctor about.

Transcript | Living With CLL: Doctor Shares Advice for New Patients

Dr. Rogers: The best part about taking care of people living with CLL for me is trying to understand the CLL in the context of their lives and making their cancer fit within their life, as opposed to telling them to interrupt their life completely just to take care of their cancer.

What is CLL?

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL, is a cancer of a type of white blood cell called B lymphocytes. So B lymphocytes are an immune system cell and like most immune system cells they live in the body, in the blood, in the lymph nodes, and they live in various organs like the spleen. So in CLL, these B lymphocytes become abnormal or cancerous lymphocytes.

How is CLL Treated?

For many people, you don't have to do anything about it right away. That when you do need treatments, the treatments are things that most people take and then still work full time or babysit grandkids full time or golf part-time or whatever they do.

So I think one thing that I'd always want to know for anyone, especially a loved one being diagnosed with this, is what risk category they're in. And these are special tests done on the CLL cells that help your doctor learn more about them. Because that can really help you understand how soon you could expect to take treatment, if and how much you're going to have to modify your lifestyle, and if it's likely that this will shorten your lifespan. Because for the majority of people, it doesn't actually.

How Does CLL Affect Your Life?

I think the biggest change for people really in terms of healthcare, especially those that don't need treatment, is that just having CLL, even if it's never needed treatment, increases people's risk for other forms of cancer like skin or colon cancer and increases the risk for infection. So, I always think it's a really good opportunity to get better acquainted with someone's primary care physician and make sure that you're getting all the cancer screenings that you need.

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