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Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL): Stages 

What does stage of cancer mean? 

The stage of a cancer is whether and how far the cancer has spread in your body. Your healthcare provider uses exams and tests to find out the size of the cancer and where it is. He or she can also see if the cancer has grown into nearby areas, and if it has spread to other parts of your body. The stage of a cancer is one of the most important things to know when deciding how to treat the cancer.

What are the stages of CLL?

Doctors use different rating systems to stage cancer. There are system used most often to stage CLL is the Rai system. This system includes:

  • Stage 0. The blood has too many lymphocytes. This is called lymphocytosis. There are no other signs or symptoms of leukemia. This stage is low risk. This means people tend to have longer survival rates and have no or few symptoms.

  • Stage I. The blood has too many lymphocytes. The lymph nodes are larger than normal. This stage is medium risk.

  • Stage II. The blood has too many lymphocytes. The liver may be swollen. This is called hepatomegaly. Or the spleen may be swollen. This is called splenomegaly. Or they may both be swollen. The lymph nodes may also be larger than normal. This stage is also medium risk.

  • Stage III. The blood has too many lymphocytes. The blood also has too few red blood cells. This is called anemia. The lymph nodes, liver, or spleen may also be larger than normal. This stage is high risk.

  • Stage IV. The blood has too many lymphocytes. It also has too few platelets. This is called thrombocytopenia. The lymph nodes, liver, or spleen may be larger than normal. The blood may have too few red blood cells. This stage is high risk.

Other factors that may matter

In addition to the stage of your CLL, other factors may matter when your doctor is looking at your treatment options. These factors include:                                                                                                                                                           

  • Age

  • Sex

  • Blood levels of beta-2 microglobulin

  • If the CLL cells have the ability to make antibodies

Your healthcare provider can tell you more about these factors and how they affect you.

Talking with your healthcare provider

Once your leukemia is staged, your healthcare provider will talk with you about what the stage means for your treatment. Make sure to ask questions or talk about your concerns.

Online Medical Reviewer: Alteri, Rick, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Cunningham, Louise, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2015
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