Leukemia Home > Stages of CLL

Stages of CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia) are used to express how far the cancer has spread. It is important to know the stage of the cancer in order to plan treatment. Tests used to determine the stage of the leukemia may include chest x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and blood chemistry studies. Specific stages of CLL include stages 0-IV and refractory cases of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (cases of CLL that do not improve with treatment).

Stages of CLL: An Introduction

After doctors diagnose chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), they then order tests to determine how far the cancer has spread in the blood and bone marrow. Staging is the process that is used to find out how far the cancer has spread. It is important to know the stage of CLL in order to plan the best chronic lymphocytic leukemia treatment.

Stages of CLL: Staging Tests

Tests that may be used in the staging process include:
  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy: The removal of a small piece of bone and bone marrow by inserting a needle into the hipbone or breastbone. A pathologist will then view both the bone and bone marrow samples under a microscope to look for abnormal cells.
  • Chest x-ray: An x-ray of the organs and bones inside the chest. An x-ray is a type of energy beam that can go through the body and onto film, making a picture of areas inside the body, such as the lymph nodes.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, such as the brain and spinal cord. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).
  • Computed tomography scan (CT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. An x-ray machine linked to a computer makes these pictures. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called CT scan, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
  • Blood chemistry studies: A procedure in which a blood sample is checked to measure the amounts of certain substances released into the blood by organs and tissues in the body. An unusual (higher or lower than normal) amount of a substance can be a sign of disease in the organ or tissue that produces it.
  • Antiglobulin test: A test in which a sample of blood is examined under a microscope to find out if there are any antibodies on the surface of red blood cells or platelets. These antibodies may react with and destroy the red blood cells and platelets. This test is also called a Coombs' test.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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