Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.

Is There A Connection Between Leukemia And Weight Gain?

Tuesday, 20 July 2010 02:30 PM

Question: I am a 72 year old woman who has recently been diagnosed with CLL (Chronic Lymphatic Leukemia, stage 1). It was discovered by accident, as I have none of the usual symptoms. I have blood tests every three months to see if my condition has changed. Can any supplements keep my condition from progressing? I have some extra weight which I have always had to fight, and the battle gets harder with time. Is there any connection?

Dr. Hibberd's Answer:

CLL is a form of chronic leukemia that is usually initially detected during a routine blood test when the total white blood cell count (WBC) is elevated in the absence of known infection or inflammation, or the WBC count itself is elevated beyond expectation.

CLL is one of four main types of leukemia. Approximately 15,000 new cases are seen yearly, usually in patients over the age of 50. It generally has a good outlook, and more patients are living with CLL than any other form of leukemia. Initially, many patients have no symptoms or only mild fatigue.

As long as the WBC's are controlled and flares are minimized, most patients have few problems until it advances, often many years or decades later.

Conservative treatment is usually recommended for early stages of CLL. The main problem seems to be overcrowding of the bone marrow by the CLL cells, that in turn, suppresses production of other white and red blood cells. Invasion of the lymphoid system may reduce the immunoglobulin (antibody) levels as well as infiltrate and enlarge organs such as liver and spleen. Toxic aggressive chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation used for other acute leukemias are not usually necessary.

Very simple oral and well-tolerated chemotherapy is usually most commonly used to induce and maintain remission.
There is no association with your diet and CLL or CLL flares. There are no supplements that are known to improve CLL, though many of them will interfere with metabolism of oral chemotherapy agents, and generally should be avoided without precise permission from your oncologist. The exception is, of course, a good multivitamin and a well rounded diet with fresh fruit and vegetables.

Stage 1 CLL is not associated with weight gain. Weight gain may be seen with oral steroid (prednisone) therapy, but other drugs are usually used to maintain remission.

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