Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the most common type of leukemia in adults in Western countries. “Chronic” means that it tends to develop slowly. “Lymphocytic” means it develops in white blood cells called lymphocytes.

Small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL) is another name for the same disease. “CLL” is used when most cancer cells are found in your blood and bone marrow. “SLL” is used when most cancer cells are in your lymph nodes.

In the United States, about 5.9 of 100,00 males and 3.3 of 100,000 females develop CLL or SLL a year. CLL and SLL are treated the same and generally have a good outlook with a 5-year relative survival rate of 87.5 percent.

You can learn more about how CLL and SLL are treated.

CLL and SLL are slow-growing cancers that develop in white blood cells called lymphocytes. More specifically, they develop in abnormal B cell lymphocytes. The function of B cells is to produce special proteins called antibodies. These antibodies attach to foreign substances and tell other immune cells to destroy them.

CLL and SLL are essentially the same diseases. Doctors choose a name based on where most cancer cells are found. Both conditions are treated in the same way, no matter which name they go by.

SLL is used when most cancer cells are found in the lymphatic area. Blood cells are produced inside your bones through the bone marrow.

A doctor will diagnose either CLL or SLL. Here is a look at how they compare.

Feature CLL SLL
Where most cancer cells are found Blood or bone marrow Lymph nodes
Monoclonal lymphocyte cell count in blood More than 5,000/mm3 Less than 5,000/mm3

SLL is classified as a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Many doctors classify CLL as a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas as well.

What causes CLL/SLL?

Researchers don’t exactly know why some people develop CLL or SLL. It’s thought that genetic factors are primarily responsible. Exposure to Agent Orange and possibly exposure to certain other herbicides and pesticides may also play a role.

Many different genetic mutations in the DNA of blood-producing cells have been identified in people with CLL or SLL. A loss of part of chromosome 13 is the most common genetic mutation that’s been identified.

Slow-growing cancer like CLL and SLL can lead to overproduction of B lymphocytes. Cancer cells are indistinguishable under a microscope, and the development of CLL and SLL is the same.

Usually, CLL represents the initial phase where cells are isolated to the blood and bone marrow. CLL may progress to SLL if cancerous cells spread primarily to lymph nodes.

About Richter’s syndrome

CLL and SLL can also develop into an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma called Richter’s syndrome. Richter’s syndrome develops in 3 to 15 percent of people with CLL or SLL.

The outlook for Richter’s syndrome is generally poor. Usual symptoms of Richter’s syndrome include:

  • Increased swelling of the lysies.
  • The swelling in the body.
  • high temperature
  • There is abdominal pain.
  • More weight loss.
  • The counts of the blood cell.

Your medical team can help you determine the best treatment for CLL or SLL. The best treatment for you depends on factors such as:

  • Your blood cell count is important.
  • Whether you have swelling in your body.
  • Your age and health.
  • Your symptoms are related to something.
  • How you respond to treatment.
  • Does cancer return after treatment?

Treatments for CLL and SLL can be found.

Many people with CLL and SLL live with the condition for a long time. The outlook of the disease is unaffected by the distinction between CLL and SLL.

Half of the people with CLL or SLL live at least 10 years, while some live 20 years or more without treatment.

The relative 5-year relative survival rate is estimated at 87.5 percent. The relative 5-year survival rate compares how many people with the disease are alive after 5 years compared to people without the disease.

Your doctor can give you an idea of what to expect. Statistics can give you an idea of your outlook, but there are many factors that can affect how you respond to treatment.

Factors that influence outlook

Factors that can affect your outlook are listed.

  • whether you have a certain gene mutation such as TP53or IgVH
  • Your blood cell count is important.
  • The stage of your cancer.
  • results of tests such as beta-2 microglobulin test
  • Your age and health.
  • How quickly the cells are destroyed.
  • If you develop a second cancer.

The type of blood cancer that is referred to as CLL and SLL is the same type of blood cancer that develops in a type of white blood cell called lymphocytes. Most cancer cells are in your blood or bone marrow, which is when CLL is used. SLL is used when most cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes.

“The same treatment is given to CLL and SLL. The treatment plan doesn’t depend on the distinction. Your medical team can help you manage your condition.”