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Understanding Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia/Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma1-4

Researchers continue to learn more about chronic lymphocytic leukemia  (CLL) and small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL). A CLL/SLL diagnosis may seem overwhelming at first, but understanding it can help you feel more at ease.

In CLL/SLL, cancer occurs in B cells, a type of white blood cell. B cells are an important part of your immune system, which defends your body against infection.

In CLL/SLL, abnormal B cells grow and spread in the bloodstream. They can also crowd out healthy cells in several parts of the body.

CLL: Genetic Tests

Learn more about genetic testing and CLL

Learn More
Lymph nodes

Lymph nodes

These glands contain immune cells that fight infections

Bone marrow

Bone marrow

This is the soft inner part of bones where most blood cells are made



This organ stores and filters blood cells

What is the difference between CLL and SLL?2

The main difference is where the cancer cells are found. In CLL, most of the cancer cells are in the blood and bone marrow . In SLL, the cancer cells are mainly in the lymph nodes.2

What are common symptoms of CLL?2,3,6

Most patients with CLL/SLL are asymptomatic at the time of diagnosis. As the disease progresses patients may experience one or more of the following common symptoms.1

  • Chills

  • Swollen lymph nodes 
  • Fevers
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Enlarged spleen causing abdominal pain or fullness
  • Tiredness
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Enlarged liver

How you feel matters

It’s important to contact your doctor if you experience chills, fever, or unexpected weight loss.

Only you know how you are feeling. If you’re feeling mentally or physically tired, or experience any of the symptoms mentioned here, it’s important to speak up and tell your doctor.


  1. Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The CLL Guide: Information for patients and caregivers. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Revised 2017. Accessed April 10, 2019. National Cancer Institute.
  2. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Accessed April 10, 2019.
  3. National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Guidelines for Patients®: Chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Accessed April 10, 2019.
  4. CLL Society. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) FAQs. Accessed April 10, 2019.
  5. National Cancer Institute. NCI dictionary of cancer terms. Accessed April 10, 2019.
  6. American Cancer Society. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Accessed April 10, 2019.
  7. American Cancer Society. Leukemia—chronic lymphocytic. Accessed May 7, 2019.
  8. American Cancer Society. Lymph nodes and cancer. Accessed May 1, 2019.


Before taking IMBRUVICA®, tell your healthcare provider about all of your medical conditions, including if you:

  • have had recent surgery or plan to have surgery. Your healthcare provider may stop IMBRUVICA® for any planned medical, surgical, or dental procedure.
  • have bleeding problems.
  • have or had heart rhythm problems, smoke, or have a medical condition that increases your risk of heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes.
  • have an infection.
  • have liver problems.
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. IMBRUVICA® can harm your unborn baby. If you are able to become pregnant, your healthcare provider will do a pregnancy test before starting treatment with IMBRUVICA®.
    • Females should not become pregnant during treatment and for 1 month after the last dose of IMBRUVICA®.
    • Males should avoid getting female partners pregnant during treatment and for 1 month after the last dose of IMBRUVICA®.
  • are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. You and your healthcare provider should decide if you will take IMBRUVICA® or breastfeed.

Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Taking IMBRUVICA® with certain other medicines may affect how IMBRUVICA® works and can cause side effects.

How should I take IMBRUVICA®?

  • Take IMBRUVICA® exactly as your healthcare provider tells you to take it.
  • Take IMBRUVICA® 1 time a day.
  • Swallow IMBRUVICA® capsules and tablets whole with a glass of water.
  • Do not open, break, or chew IMBRUVICA® capsules.
  • Do not cut, crush, or chew IMBRUVICA® tablets.
  • Take IMBRUVICA® at about the same time each day.
  • If you miss a dose of IMBRUVICA® take it as soon as you remember on the same day. Take your next dose of IMBRUVICA® at your regular time on the next day. Do not take extra doses of IMBRUVICA® to make up for a missed dose.
  • If you take too much IMBRUVICA®, call your healthcare provider or go to the nearest hospital emergency room right away.

What should I avoid while taking IMBRUVICA®?

  • You should not drink grapefruit juice, eat grapefruit, or eat Seville oranges (often used in marmalades) during treatment with IMBRUVICA®. These products may increase the amount of IMBRUVICA® in your blood

What are the possible side effects of IMBRUVICA®?

IMBRUVICA® may cause serious side effects, including:

  • Bleeding problems (hemorrhage) are common during treatment with IMBRUVICA®, and can also be serious and may lead to death. Your risk of bleeding may increase if you are also taking a blood thinner medicine. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any signs of bleeding, including: blood in your stools or black stools (looks like tar), pink or brown urine, unexpected bleeding, or bleeding that is severe or that you cannot control, vomit blood or vomit looks like coffee grounds, cough up blood or blood clots, increased bruising, dizziness, weakness, confusion, change in your speech, or a headache that lasts a long time.
  • Infections can happen during treatment with IMBRUVICA®. These infections can be serious and may lead to death. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have fever, chills, weakness, confusion, or other signs or symptoms of an infection during treatment with IMBRUVICA®.
  • Decrease in blood cell counts. Decreased blood counts (white blood cells, platelets, and red blood cells) are common with IMBRUVICA®, but can also be severe. Your healthcare provider should do monthly blood tests to check your blood counts.
  • Heart rhythm problems (ventricular arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter). Serious heart rhythm problems and death have happened in people treated with IMBRUVICA®, especially in people who have an increased risk for heart disease, have an infection, or who have had heart rhythm problems in the past. Tell your healthcare provider if you get any symptoms of heart rhythm problems, such as feeling as if your heart is beating fast and irregular, lightheadedness, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, or you faint. If you develop any of these symptoms, your healthcare provider may do a test to check your heart (ECG) and may change your IMBRUVICA® dose.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension). New or worsening high blood pressure has happened in people treated with IMBRUVICA®. Your healthcare provider may start you on blood pressure medicine or change current medicines to treat your blood pressure.
  • Second primary cancers. New cancers have happened during treatment with IMBRUVICA®, including cancers of the skin or other organs.
  • Tumor lysis syndrome (TLS). TLS is caused by the fast breakdown of cancer cells. TLS can cause kidney failure and the need for dialysis treatment, abnormal heart rhythm, seizure, and sometimes death. Your healthcare provider may do blood tests to check you for TLS.

The most common side effects of IMBRUVICA® in adults with B-cell malignancies (MCL, CLL/SLL, WM and MZL) include:

  • diarrhea
  • muscle and bone pain
  • rash
  • bruising
  • nausea
  • tiredness
  • fever

The most common side effects of IMBRUVICA® in adults with cGVHD include:

  • tiredness
  • bruising
  • diarrhea
  • mouth sores (stomatitis)
  • muscle spasms
  • nausea
  • pneumonia

Diarrhea is a common side effect in people who take IMBRUVICA®. Drink plenty of fluids during treatment with IMBRUVICA® to help reduce your risk of losing too much fluid (dehydration) due to diarrhea. Tell your healthcare provider if you have diarrhea that does not go away.

These are not all the possible side effects of IMBRUVICA®. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

General information about the safe and effective use of IMBRUVICA®

Medicines are sometimes prescribed for purposes other than those listed in a Patient Information leaflet. Do not use IMBRUVICA® for a condition for which it was not prescribed. Do not give IMBRUVICA® to other people, even if they have the same symptoms that you have. It may harm them. You can ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider for information about IMBRUVICA® that is written for health professionals.

Please see the full Important Product Information.


What is IMBRUVICA® (ibrutinib)?

IMBRUVICA® (ibrutinib) is a prescription medicine used to treat adults with:

  • Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) who have received at least one prior treatment
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)/Small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL)
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)/Small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL) with 17p deletion
  • Waldenström's macroglobulinemia (WM)
  • Marginal zone lymphoma (MZL) who require a medicine by mouth or injection (systemic therapy) and have received a certain type of prior treatment
  • Chronic graft versus host disease (cGVHD) after failure of 1 or more lines of systemic therapy 

It is not known if IMBRUVICA® is safe and effective in children.