Chronic lymphocytic leukemia can be classified as either slow growing (indolent) or fast growing (aggressive).
Indolent CLL is slow growing and can remain stable without treatment for years.
If your CLL is indolent, it means that there are an increased number of lymphocytes in your blood, but your other blood cell counts are normal or only slightly below normal. Your physician may recommend "watchful waiting" in this situation.
Sometimes, patients with CLL in the early stages discover their illness when their primary care physician orders routine tests, or diagnostic tests for other symptoms. However, if you have slow growing CLL, you may not have symptoms of the disease.
Aggressive CLL is fast growing and requires more immediate treatment. If your CLL is aggressive, it means that there are too many lymphocytes and abnormal cells leaving little to no room for other healthy blood cells.
If you have aggressive CLL, you may have symptoms of the disease.
If left untreated, you can develop serious complications from the disease such as anemia and symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath, bleeding and difficulty fighting off infections or frequent infections. In extreme circumstances you may need transfusions of blood or platelets prior to the diagnosis of CLL.