Q: What is chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)?

A: CLL is a type of blood cancer that affects the lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that help the body fight infections. In CLL, the body produces too many abnormal lymphocytes, which don’t function properly and can’t fight off infections. These abnormal lymphocytes accumulate in the blood, bone marrow, and lymph nodes, causing them to enlarge.


Q: How common is CLL in New Zealand?

A: CLL is the most common type of leukaemia in New Zealand, accounting for around 30% of all adult leukaemia cases. Approximately 200-250 new cases of CLL are diagnosed each year in New Zealand.


Q: What are the symptoms of CLL?

A: Many people with CLL have no symptoms, especially in the early stages of the disease. When symptoms do occur, they may include:

Enlarged lymph nodes, especially in the neck, armpits, and groin

Fatigue and weakness

Weight loss

Night sweats



Easy bruising or bleeding


Q: How is CLL diagnosed?

A: CLL is usually diagnosed with a blood test called a complete blood count (CBC), which measures the number of different types of blood cells in the body. If the CBC shows an abnormal number of lymphocytes, further tests may be done, such as a bone marrow biopsy, to confirm the diagnosis.


Q: What are the risk factors for CLL?

A: The exact cause of CLL is not known, but several risk factors have been identified, including:

Age: CLL is more common in people over the age of 50.

Family history: People with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) who has CLL are at higher risk.

Exposure to certain chemicals: Exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals may increase the risk of CLL.

Weakened immune system: People with a weakened immune system, such as those with HIV or who have had an organ transplant, may be at higher risk.


Q: What is the treatment for CLL?

A: The treatment regimen for CLL in New typically depends on the stage and extent of the disease, as well as the overall health and age of the patient.

The first-line treatment for CLL is usually chemotherapy with a combination of drugs such as fludarabine, cyclophosphamide, and rituximab (FCR). However, some patients may not be able to tolerate this treatment due to their age or overall health status.

Other treatment options for CLL in New Zealand include targeted therapy with drugs such as ibrutinib or venetoclax, which can be particularly effective for patients with certain genetic mutations. Immunotherapy with monoclonal antibodies such as rituximab or obinutuzumab may also be used, either alone or in combination with chemotherapy or targeted therapy.

In some cases, stem cell transplantation may be considered for patients with CLL that has relapsed or become resistant to other treatments. However, this is a complex and risky procedure that is generally reserved for younger patients with a good overall health status.

Overall, the treatment regimen for CLL in New Zealand is individualized to each patient and considers their specific needs and circumstances. Treatment decisions are made by a team of healthcare professionals, including Haematologists, oncologists, and other specialists.

Q: What is the prognosis for CLL?

A: CLL is a slow-growing cancer, and many people with CLL live for many years without requiring treatment. However, the prognosis for CLL varies depending on the individual’s age, overall health, and stage of the disease. Some people with CLL have a more aggressive form of the disease and may require more intensive treatment. Your healthcare team can give you more information about your specific prognosis.

Q: Is there any research being conducted on CLL in New Zealand?

A: Yes, there are several research initiatives underway in New Zealand focused on CLL and other blood cancers. The New Zealand Blood Cancer Registry is a national database that collects information on all cases of blood cancer in New Zealand and is used to support research and clinical trials. In addition, several research institutions and universities in New Zealand are conducting studies on CLL and other blood cancers, with a focus on developing new treatments and improving outcomes for individuals with these diseases.

Q: How can I support someone with CLL?

A: Supporting someone with CLL can involve providing emotional support, helping with daily tasks, and offering practical assistance such as transportation to medical appointments. It is important to communicate openly and honestly with the person about their needs and to respect their autonomy in decision-making.



There may be funding options available for individuals with CLL in New Zealand, depending on their circumstances.

Here are some potential sources of funding:

Pharmaceutical funding: In New Zealand, many cancer treatments are subsidized by the government through the Pharmaceutical Schedule. This means that individuals with CLL may be eligible for funding for certain treatments, such as chemotherapy or immunotherapy.

Disability Allowance: The Disability Allowance is a weekly payment that is available to individuals with a long-term disability, including cancer. This funding can be used to help cover the costs of medical treatment, transport, and other expenses related to the disability.

Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ): Individuals with CLL who are unable to work due to their condition may be eligible for financial assistance through WINZ, such as the Jobseeker Support or Sole Parent Support payments.

Charitable organisations: There are several charitable organizations in New Zealand that provide financial assistance to individuals with cancer.

These organisations may provide funding for medical treatment, transport, or other expenses related to the disease.

It is important to note that eligibility criteria for these funding options may vary, and individuals will need to apply and provide documentation to support their application. It is recommended that individuals with CLL speak to their healthcare provider or a social worker for information on potential funding options and how to apply.