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What is a CLL treatment?

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Quick Answer

Five standard treatments for chronic lymphocytic leukemia include watchful waiting, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery and targeted therapy, according to the National Cancer Institute. Therapies undergoing clinical trials such as stem cell transplants and biologic therapies are available, as of October 2014. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia treatments vary by stage.

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Full Answer

Stage zero forms of this cancer are usually treated by watchful waiting. The NCI explains that watchful waiting occurs when doctors and patients monitor the disease until signs and symptoms change. Doctors treat infections caused by CLL in this observational stage.

Treatments for stages I through IV CLL include targeted therapies that attempt to destroy cancer cells without harming normal cells. Monoclonal antibody therapy uses antibodies made in a laboratory that attack substances found only in cancer cells. The NCI reveals that a tyrosine kinase inhibitor blocks the signals that tumors need to grow.

Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells using intravenous or oral drugs. Low-dose radiation delivers cancer-killing x-rays to the spleen or lymph nodes, according to the NCI. A splenectomy completely removes the spleen for one treatment option.

Stem cell treatments involve red blood cells replaced after chemotherapy. Healthy cells are removed from blood or bone marrow of the patient or a donor, then frozen and subsequently thawed when needed. The NCI indicates biologic therapy uses a patient's own immune system to fight cancer by boosting the body's natural defenses.

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