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You may receive supportive care to prevent or treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) symptoms and therapy side effects. Common methods of supportive care for CLL include taking antibiotics and receiving blood cell growth factors.

Antibiotics

Your doctor may give you antibiotics to treat infections caused by bacteria or fungi. As a CLL patient, you're at risk for getting infections. Both the disease and treatment lower the number of infection-fighting white cells in the blood.

If you repeatedly get infections, your doctor may give you injections of immunoglobulin (also called gamma globulin), an infection-fighting protein found in the blood. Some people with CLL tend to produce insufficient amounts of immunoglobulin.

Blood Cell Growth Factors

CLL therapy often corrects CLL-related low white blood counts. But if you go through a long period of low white-cell counts after treatment, your doctor may give you agents known as blood cell growth factors to increase your white cell levels. These laboratory-produced agents are similar to substances found naturally in our blood that help red cells, white cells and platelets grow.

White cell growth factors commonly used are:

  • granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF), made up of filgrastim (Neupogen®) and pegfilgrastim (Neulasta®)
  • granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating growth factor (GM-CSF), made up of sangramostim (Leukine®)

Anemia - low numbers of red cells - is a common side effect of chemotherapy. Your doctor will likely give you blood transfusions or red cell growth factors to increase your red cell count. Blood cell growth factors can also help you better tolerate the side effects of higher chemotherapy doses.

Examples of red cell growth factors are:

  • darbepoetin alfa (Aranesp®)
  • epoetin alfa (Procrit®)

Blood cell growth factors can cause a number of side effects, some serious. Before beginning treatment, talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits.

last updated on Friday, May 11, 2012
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