The stages of CLL

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The tests that you have will help your doctor to ‘stage’ your CLL. Staging CLL means describing the extent of the disease. This helps your doctor to plan your treatment.

Binet staging system

This measures the number of white blood cells and if you have anaemia (low red blood cells) or a reduced number of platelets. It also counts the number of areas in your body where you have enlarged lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are mainly found in the neck, armpits, groin, liver and spleen.

  • Stage A: There are fewer than three areas of enlarged lymph nodes.
  • Stage B: There are three or more areas of enlarged lymph nodes.
  • Stage C: There are a reduced number of red blood cells, platelets or both.

Transformation

Occasionally CLL cells can change (transform) into different types of blood cancers (such as Richter's syndrome, a fast-growing cancer of the lymphatic system or prolymphocytic leukaemia – PLL). This is very rare and may occur with a sudden increase in symptoms. For example, fevers, extensive weight loss and swollen glands. If your CLL transforms into a faster-growing cancer, you are more likely to need immediate treatment. You doctor will advise you about your treatment options.

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