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Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
September 2003

Q. I have been exposed to products (Gasoline, Naptha, Aviation Gas, etc.) for more than 20 years. I have had all kinds of health problems the last 3-4 years. I am unable to work because of all this. I was told I have chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). I am required to get tested for benzene once a year. Will I ever feel better than I do now? Should I or can I go back to this type of work and exposure without doing more harm to my body or speed up to process of the CLL? What kind of treatments are out there? What about chelation therapy?

A. Leukemia is a group of serious diseases that affects the white blood cells. CLL affects primarily adults over the age of 50, and there are about 7,000 new cases yearly in the U.S. Diagnosis sometimes occurs unexpectedly from an abnormal blood count, and other times patients seek medical care due to not feeling well with symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, or frequent infections.

The disease results from a change in the DNA of a developing white blood cell, usually the B-lymphocyte that then causes this particular cell to proliferate rapidly. This cell growth can appear as enlarged lymph nodes or spleen on a physical exam. The disease can remain stable for a long time or can progress.

Treatment is primarily with chemotherapy. Chelation is not considered a proven treatment. Benzene chemical exposure has been associated with some kinds of cancer but not specifically CLL.




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