The care of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) has changed dramatically during the past decade. This review summarizes the work-up of lymphocytosis and the current diagnostic criteria and management of CLL. Although clinical staging (Rai and Binet) remains the foundation for determining prognosis, 50% of patients with early-stage disease at diagnosis will experience an aggressive course of disease with early progression and premature death due to CLL. New laboratory techniques (CD38, fluorescence in situ hybridization [FISH]) can identify some patients with early-stage CLL at high risk of rapid disease progression. The array of treatment options has expanded in recent years and now includes monoclonal antibodies used alone or in combination with purine nucleoside analogues and alkylating agents, which have culminated in dramatically improved response rates. Supportive care guidelines now include vaccination strategies, surveillance for secondary malignancies, and aggressive management of infectious complications. An early hematology consultation is recommended for all patients at diagnosis to identify and counsel high-risk patients with early-stage disease who may benefit from more frequent follow-up or early treatment as part of a clinical trial.
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