Although it is commonly associated with children, leukemia actually affects 10 times more adults. No one in the region has successfully treated more adults with leukemia than Green Bay Oncology.

Leukemias are cancers of the white blood cells. There are many different types affecting children and adults, all of which are divided into acute and chronic categories. Green Bay Oncology’s team of blood cancer specialists has significant experience in treating all types of adult leukemias, and offers multiple options in therapy.

In addition to having more cancer-fighting doctors and more depth of experience than any other provider in the region, Green Bay Oncology is one of only two participants in the National Cancer Institute’s Community Oncology Research Program in the region. We conduct national-level clinical trials for leukemia right here in our communities.

For more information on our treatment options or all types of leukemia, schedule a consultation with one of our specialists.

While we are experts in all forms of adult leukemia, the information below focuses on the most common form, chronic lymphoid leukemia (CLL), also known as B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL). More than 16,000 Americans are diagnosed with CLL each year. Seventy percent of those with CLL are over the age of 65. Men outnumber women 60:40.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia diagnosis

The most common form of leukemia in adults, CLL begins in a stem cell of the bone marrow, where it produces an over-abundance of white blood cells (lymphocytes.) These cells eventually encroach on the other parts of the blood-forming marrow, resulting in severe anemia and bleeding.

Forming slowly over 1 to 20 years or more, CLL is diagnosed through blood tests that detect lower-than-normal levels of red blood cells and platelets with a higher-than-normal white cell count.

While CLL does not generally cause symptoms, some patients first see their doctors when experiencing swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, stomach or groin, pain or fullness on the upper left side of the stomach (from an enlarged spleen), fever, unexplained weight loss, shortness of breath, frequent infections and fatigue.

We encourage all of our patients and prospective patients to empower themselves with knowledge from reputable sources. For more information on screening and diagnosis of CLL, we recommend the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Blood Journal, and the American Cancer Society.

Why does chronic lymphocytic leukemia occur?

The medical community does not know why only certain blood cells turn into leukemia, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to prevent CLL from developing. CLL occurs mainly in people over the age of 65 with only rare instances of multiple family members with CLL.

There has been research that indicates exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam may have contributed to a higher risk for Vietnam veterans. To learn more, contact the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.

How is chronic lymphocytic leukemia treated?

A diagnosis of CLL does not always warrant treatment. The disease may be so slow moving in its progression that it poses no threat. In these instances, patients simply return for periodic visits with their Green Bay Oncology specialist.

For cases of CLL that progress further, treatment decisions rest on the degree of accumulation of the lymphocytes that we find in blood samples. When needed, our specialists design a course of action that is personalized for each patient. Typical CLL therapy includes:


For the earliest stages, frequently termed stage 1–3, a “watch and wait” approach is employed.


If CLL has progressed to stage 4, intravenous chemotherapy is the usual course of treatment.

Clinical Trials:

New treatment options are continually being developed. As the region’s only participant in the National Cancer Institute’s Community Clinical Oncology Program, we conduct national-level clinical trials here in our communities and help to identify new ways to detect, diagnose, and treat CLL.

The future holds even more promise for oral drugs to treat CLL, such as PI3K inhibitors and BTK inhibitors. These new agents will likely be available in the next two to three years.


For more information on leukemia cancer and related treatment options, we recommend the following resources: