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Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Treatment continued...

Surgery. It's rare, but if chemotherapy or radiation doesn't reduce an enlarged spleen, doctors recommend surgery to take it out.

Researchers are studying new combinations of drugs and ways of treating CLL to help people stay disease-free longer. One such treatment combines chemotherapy with a stem cell transplant.

Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells but also damages some healthy cells in the bone marrow.

The stem cell transplant supplies healthy young cells to help rebuild your immune system. These aren't the "embryonic" stem cells that you may have heard about. They come from a donor's bone marrow.

Close relatives, such as your brother or sister, are the best chance for a good match. If that doesn't work out, you need to get on a list of potential donors from strangers. Sometimes the best chance for the right stem cells for you will be from someone who has the same racial or ethnic background as you.

Before the transplant you'll likely need to get treated with high doses of chemo for about a week or two. This can be a tough process, because you may get side effects like nausea and mouth sores.

When the high-dose chemo is done, you'll start the transplant. The new stem cells are given to you through an IV. You won't feel any pain from this, and you're awake while it’s happening.

After your transplant, it could take 2 to 6 weeks for the stem cells to multiply and start making new blood cells. During this time you may be in the hospital, or at the very least, will need to make visits every day to get checked by your transplant team. It can take 6 months to a year until the number of normal blood cells in your body gets back to what it should be.

You may want to ask your doctor if you can join a clinical trial. These trials test new drugs to see if they're safe and if they work. They often are a way for people to try new medicine that isn't available to everyone. Your doctor can tell you if one of these trials might be a good fit for you.

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