Treatments for low-risk CLL

The following are treatment options for low-risk (Rai stage 0 or Binet stage A) chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Your healthcare team will suggest treatments based on your needs and work with you to develop a treatment plan.

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is also called active surveillance. It is the main treatment because low-risk CLL is slow to develop and does not need to be treated right away.

Watchful waiting is treatment that involves carefully watching for signs that CLL is progressing. Treatment is started when symptoms develop or when there are signs that the disease is progressing quickly. Some people do not develop symptoms for many years and will not need any treatment.

Supportive therapy

Supportive therapy is an important part of treatment for CLL. It is used to treat the complications that usually happen with treatments for CLL and the disease itself.

Supportive therapies may include:

  • antibiotics to treat infections
  • transfusions of red blood cells, platelets, fresh frozen plasma and cryoprecipitate (a product that replaces clotting factors) as needed
  • leukapheresis to remove large numbers of white blood cells from the blood

Clinical trials

You may be asked if you want to join a clinical trial for CLL. Find out more about clinical trials.


A procedure that uses a special machine (pheresis machine) to separate and collect specific white blood cells from withdrawn blood. The remaining blood is then returned to the body.

Leukapheresis is used to lower a very high white blood cell count in people with cancer (leukemia) or to remove white blood cells for transfusion.