Main treatments for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia

It's not possible to cure chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, but treatment can control it.

You may not need to have treatment straight away when you're diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

You'll usually be seen by a doctor or nurse regularly. How often you're seen depends on the stage of your cancer, if you're having active treatment and how you're feeling.

When you start treatment depends on:

You can live with chronic lymphocytic for years and may need to repeat treatment several times.

The main treatments for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia are targeted medicines and chemotherapy. You may just have a targeted medicine on its own or combined with chemotherapy.

Rarely, other treatments can include radiotherapy and surgery.

The specialist team looking after you will:

You'll have regular check-ups during and after any treatments. You may also have tests and scans.

If you have any symptoms or side effects that you're worried about, talk to your specialists. You do not need to wait for your next check-up.

Targeted medicines

Targeted cancer medicines aim to stop the cancer growing or help your immune system fight the cancer.

You may have them on their own or with chemotherapy.


Chemotherapy uses medicines to kill cancer cells.

You usually have chemotherapy with targeted cancer medicines given at the same time.


Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays of radiation to kill cancer cells.

You may have radiotherapy for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia if your symptoms get worse or other treatments are not working as well anymore.


Rarely, you may need to have an operation to remove your spleen if you have chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

The spleen is a small organ that filters your blood. It's part of your immune system, but you can live without it.

If you're not able to have surgery, you may have radiotherapy instead.

Supportive treatments

You may also need to have treatment to prevent or control symptoms caused by chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

This may include:

What happens when your symptoms come back

When your symptoms come back, this is called a relapse. This may happen slowly and you may not need to have treatment straight away.

You may have several relapses while you live with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

You may need more treatment to control the cancer. You'll have more tests so doctors can work out which treatments will work best for you.

When your symptoms are under control, this is called remission. This can last for years.

It can be difficult living with CLL and knowing it can come back at any time.

It can help to get support from family, friends or a support organisation if you get anxious between appointments.

Page last reviewed: 1 August 2019
Next review due: 1 August 2019