Leukemia - Chronic Lymphocytic - CLL: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 07/2015

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

People with CLL may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with CLL do not show any of these symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not CLL.

Often, people have no symptoms and are diagnosed with CLL when the doctor finds many white blood cells during a blood test done for other reasons. Also, the immune system of people with CLL may not work well. This means that the body’s immune system sometimes makes abnormal antibodies against their own red blood cells and/or platelets. The antibodies destroy these cells, causing anemia or low numbers of platelets. These type of antibodies are called autoantibodies. People with CLL can develop autoantibodies at any time and this is not necessarily related to the severity of the CLL. Other possible symptoms of CLL are:

  • Swelling of lymph nodes or glands in the neck, under the arms, or in the groin. This is a common symptom that people with CLL usually notice first. Usually, the enlarged lymph nodes are not painful.

  • Discomfort or fullness in the upper left part of the abdomen, caused when the spleen increases in size

  • Fever and infection

  • Abnormal bleeding

  • Shortness of breath

  • Weight loss

  • Fatigue

  • Chills

  • Night sweats

  • Feeling full despite not eating much

  • Rash

  • Malaise, or generally not feeling well

If you are concerned about one or more of the symptoms or signs on this list, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

If leukemia is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis and it explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Or, use the menu on the side of your screen to choose another section to continue reading this guide.