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Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia: Care Instructions

Overview

Leukemia is a type of cancer that causes your body to make too many blood cells, especially white blood cells. White blood cells are a part of your immune system, which helps protect you from infection and disease.

In chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), your body makes large numbers of young white blood cells called lymphocytes. But some of these young white blood cells don't mature like they should. Instead, they become leukemia cells. Over time, they may cause symptoms as they begin to crowd out healthy white blood cells in your blood, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and spleen.

There are several treatments for CLL, including targeted therapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy (chemoimmunotherapy), and stem cell transplants. But because CLL may get worse slowly, sometimes treatment can wait. Your doctor will follow your progress and let you know if or when you need treatment.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Eat healthy food. If you do not feel like eating, try to eat food that has protein and extra calories to keep up your strength and prevent weight loss.
  • Get some physical activity every day, but do not get too tired.
  • Get enough sleep, and take time to do things you enjoy. This can help reduce stress.
  • Think about joining a support group. Or discuss your concerns with your doctor or a counsellor.
  • If you are vomiting or have diarrhea:
    • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Choose water and other clear liquids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
    • When you are able to eat, try clear soups, mild foods, and liquids until all symptoms are gone for 12 to 48 hours. Other good choices include dry toast, crackers, cooked cereal, and gelatin dessert, such as Jell-O.
  • Avoid infections such as COVID-19, colds, and influenza (flu). Wash your hands often. Get a pneumococcal vaccine. If you have had one before, ask your doctor whether you need another dose. Get a flu vaccine every year. Stay up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Do not smoke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a fever or chills. Or you may be sweating.
  • You have abnormal bleeding.
  • You think you have an infection.
  • You have new or worse pain.
  • You have new symptoms, such as a cough, belly pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or a rash.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You are much more tired than usual.
  • You have swollen glands in your armpits, groin, or neck.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.