Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia

What is chronic lymphocytic leukaemia?

Chronic leukaemia develops when white blood cells grow out of control. The abnormal white cells live too long, and because they are immature and abnormal, they don’t carry out their infection-fighting function. Abnormal white blood cells crowd out the normal white cells, which increases the risk of infection.

There are two main types of chronic leukaemia, depending on what type of white blood cell is involved: chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) and chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML).

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Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia symptoms

CLL is difficult to detect in the early stages because the symptoms tend to be mild at first and get worse slowly. Symptoms may include:

  • tiredness
  • weight loss
  • swollen lymph glands in the neck, underarms or groin
  • frequent and persistent infections
  • bruising or bleeding from a low platelet count.

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Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia statistics


  • In Australia, about 880 people are diagnosed with leukaemia each year. About half of those cases are chronic leukaemia.
  • CLL is the most common type of chronic leukaemia, making up about 70% of cases.
  • About 290 people (175 male, 115 female) are diagnosed each year.
  • CLL usually occurs during or after middle age. It is rare in children.

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The aim of this information is to help you understand about chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. We cannot advise you about the best treatment for you. You need to discuss this with your doctors. However, we hope this information will answer some of your questions and help you think about the questions you would like to ask your doctors or other health carers.