What Is the Life Expectancy of a Person With CLL?

Reviewed on 4/12/2021

The five-year survival rate for a person with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a cancer of the white blood cells (lymphocytes), ranges between 60% to 80%, depending on their age.
The five-year survival rate for a person with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a cancer of the white blood cells (lymphocytes), ranges between 60% to 80%, depending on their age.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a cancer of the white blood cells (lymphocytes) in the bone marrow in the center of the bones. In patients with CLL, the bone marrow produces abnormal blood cells that grow out of control and get into the bloodstream. 

About one-third of all leukemias are CLL, and it tends to affect older adults with an average age at diagnosis of 70 years.

CLL is rarely cured but most people can live with the disease for many years because it progresses slowly. While some will not need to be treated at first, over time, most people will need treatment. 

Life expectancy for CLL is often expressed in 5-year survival rates, that is, how many people will be alive 5 years after diagnosis.

  • More than 80% of people aged 15 to 64 years, survive CLL for 5 years or more after diagnosis 
  • More than 60% of adults aged 65 or older survive CLL for 5 years or more after diagnosis
  • Overall, about 70% of men and nearly 75% of women will survive 5 years or more after being diagnosed. 

What Are Symptoms of CLL?

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) may not cause symptoms, especially at first. When symptoms of CLL occur, they may be very general and can include:

What Causes CLL?

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the result of genetic mutations. The cause for these mutations is not known.Risk factors for developing chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) include:

  • Age over 50 
  • Exposure to certain chemicals, such as Agent Orange, radon, and possibly certain pesticides
  • Family history
  • Gender: slightly more common in males
  • Race/ethnicity: more common in North America and Europe than in Asia

How Is CLL Diagnosed?

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is diagnosed with tests such as:


What is leukemia? See Answer

What Is the Treatment for CLL?

Treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) can include one or more of the following:

  • Chemotherapy 
  • Monoclonal antibodies
  • Targeted therapy
    • Kinase inhibitors
      • Bruton's tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitors
        • Ibrutinib (Imbruvica)
        • Acalabrutinib (Calquence)
    • PI3K inhibitors
      • Idelalisib (Zydelig)
      • Duvelisib (Copiktra)
    • Venetoclax (Venclexta): may be used alone or along with a monoclonal antibody, such as rituximab
  • Surgery
    • Removal of the spleen (splenectomy) may be done to help improve some CLL symptoms, though it does not cure the cancer
  • Radiation
    • External beam radiation therapy
    • Not a main treatment but may be used to treat some symptoms or before a stem cell transplant
  • Leukapheresis to reduce the number of leukemia cells when they are excessively high
  • Supportive care to help with problems related to the cancer and side effects of treatment
    • Treatments to prevent infections
      • Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG)
      • Antibiotics and anti-virals
    • Vaccines
    • Treatments for low blood counts
      • Transfusions 
  • Stem cell transplant

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Reviewed on 4/12/2021