Treatments for low-risk CLL

The following are treatment options for low-risk (Rai stage 0 or Binet stage A) chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Your healthcare team will suggest treatments based on your needs and work with you to develop a treatment plan.

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is also called active surveillance. It is the main treatment because low-risk CLL is slow to develop and does not need to be treated right away.

Watchful waiting is treatment that involves carefully watching for signs that CLL is progressing. Treatment is started when symptoms develop or when there are signs that the disease is progressing quickly. Some people do not develop symptoms for many years and will not need any treatment.

Supportive therapy

Supportive therapy is an important part of treatment for CLL. It is used to treat the complications that usually happen with treatments for CLL and the disease itself.

Supportive therapies may include:

  • antibiotics to treat infections
  • transfusions of red blood cells, platelets, fresh frozen plasma and cryoprecipitate (a product that replaces clotting factors) as needed
  • leukapheresis to remove large numbers of white blood cells from the blood

Clinical trials

You may be asked if you want to join a clinical trial for CLL. Find out more about clinical trials.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Leukemia - Chronic Lymphocytic. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society; 2013:
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Leukemia - Chronic Lymphocytic - CLL: Treatment Options. Alexandria, VA.: American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO); 2014:
  • Borthakur G, O'Brien S . Treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia and related disorders. Wiernik PH, Goldman JM, Dutcher JP & Kyle RA (eds.). Neoplastic Diseases of the Blood. 5th ed. Springer; 2013: 9: pp. 121-119.
  • Mir Muhammad A . Chronic lymphocytic leukemia treatment & management. WebMD LLC; 2014.
  • National Cancer Institute. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia Treatment (PDQ®) Health Professional Version. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2014.