Small lymphocytic lymphoma, or SLL, is a slow-growing type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. If a person has this type of cancer, immature white blood cells are found mainly in the lymph nodes.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and SLL are
This article discusses the symptoms and treatment of SLL leukemia and compares it with CLL.
SLL and CLL are both lymphocytic conditions that affect the immune system. However, they affect different areas of the immune system.
Both conditions are types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. These cancers start in the white blood cells and affect the lymphatic system.
SLL: Lymph nodes
In people with SLL, cancer cells appear
The lymph nodes are small bean-shaped glands that contain white blood cells, or lymphocytes, and help filter substances that travel through the lymphatic fluid. Lymph nodes are part of the body’s immune system.
CLL: Bone marrow and blood cells
CLL also affects the immune system. However, in CLL, the cancer cells appear mainly in the bone marrow and blood cells. Bone marrow is the spongy tissue in the middle of the bones that makes substances that produce blood cells.
When doctors examine the cancer cells under a microscope, both SLL and CLL look the same. However, there are some differences in the blood.
A person with CLL will have more than
As the cancers are so similar, doctors use the same treatments for both SLL and CLL.
SLL is slow growing. It may not cause any symptoms at all for
When the cancer begins to cause symptoms, it mainly causes swollen lymph nodes in the neck, groin, and armpits.
In addition to swollen glands, a person with SLL may have the following symptoms:
- unexplained weight loss
- swollen abdomen
- night sweats
- feeling of fullness
- shortness of breath
- easy bleeding
Additionally, people with SLL have a
There are many treatment options for SLL.
Doctors determine a person’s treatment plan based largely on the symptoms they have. According to the Lymphoma Research Foundation, a person only needs treatment if they show symptoms or testing shows the cancer is worsening.
If a person has SLL but no symptoms, a doctor may decide that the best course of action is to monitor them and wait until their symptoms worsen before prescribing further treatment.
If a doctor determines a person needs treatment, the type of treatment will depend on the following factors:
- health aside from SLL
- stage of SLL
- symptoms and severity
- red and white blood cell counts
- platelet levels
- genetic mutations
Treatment options may include:
- Immunotherapy: A person receives drugs that help boost their body’s immune system against the leukemia.
- A combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy: Doctors rarely use chemotherapy by itself to treat CLL or SLL.
- Targeted therapy: This type of treatment may involve taking a pill orally. This medication will cause less harm to noncancerous cells.
- Stem cell transplants: A person receives an injection of stem cells, which help form blood cells. This can help the recovery of people who have undergone aggressive treatment.
- Clinical trials of new treatments: There are many new and promising treatment options that are not currently approved. A person can discuss the pros and cons of clinical trials for their unique situation with their doctor.
- Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy: This type of treatment is currently available through clinical trials. It involves removing some immune cells, called T cells, from a person’s blood. Doctors then modify the cells so they can fight the cancer, before reinjecting them into the person’s veins.
SLL leukemia is a type of slow-growing cancer, which means a person may not experience symptoms or require treatment for years.
According to the
The survival rate refers to the proportion of people still alive for a length of time after receiving a particular diagnosis. For example, a 5-year survival rate of 50% means that 50%, or half, of the people are still alive 5 years after receiving the diagnosis.
It is important to remember that these figures are estimates and are based on the results of previous studies or treatments. A person can consult a healthcare professional about how their condition is going to affect them.
According to the
DNA and genetic mutations that affect genes that promote cell division and growth, and mutations in genes that slow down cell division, may also play a role in SLL. While a person can inherit these mutations, most of the changes related to SLL happen during a person’s lifetime.
In most cases of SLL, there is a change found in one of the 23 pairs of chromosomes in the human cells. Normally, part of the chromosome is deleted or lost. The deletion of part of chromosome 13 is the most common, but parts of other chromosomes may be deleted as well.
Sometimes, there is an extra chromosome (trisomy) or another mutation that plays a role in the development of SLL. While scientists know these changes and mutations impact SLL, they are not yet entirely sure how.
Some people may receive a diagnosis of SLL when a doctor does routine blood work during their yearly checkup. These people are generally asymptomatic.
If a person does have symptoms, SLL diagnosis generally starts with a physical exam. During the exam, the doctor will
- complete blood count (CBC)
- peripheral blood smear
- flow cytometry
- other blood tests
Bone marrow biopsy
While blood tests can determine whether or not a person has SLL, a doctor may still order a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy.
A doctor may order additional testing to help determine the best course of treatment. These tests can include:
- genetic tests
- molecular tests
- CT scans and other imaging studies
SLL leukemia is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. This cancer is very slow growing. Many people with SLL may not have any symptoms at all.
SLL is very similar to CLL, and the main difference is the part of the immune system the cancer cells affect. There are many treatment options available. The 5-year survival rate for SLL has increased because of medical advances.