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The stage of your leukaemia means how far your chronic leukaemia has developed.

What staging means

When your doctors have all your test results they will know the stage of your chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).

For CLL staging, doctors look at the number of abnormal white blood cells and whether any lymph nodes or the spleen are enlarged. They also look at whether the production of normal blood cells has been affected.

Your doctor uses the stage of your chronic lymphocytic leukaemia to work out the treatment you will need. There are different ways of staging different types of chronic leukaemia.

If you are looking for information on the stages of chronic myeloid leukaemia, this is the wrong section for you.

Staging chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)

There are two different staging systems for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). These are the Binet staging system and the Rai system. In the UK and Europe doctors use the Binet staging system. The Rai system has 5 stages from 0 to IV. It is used more frequently in the USA, so we haven't discussed it here.

The Binet staging system for CLL has 3 stages:

  • stage A – fewer than 3 groups of enlarged lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy) and a high white blood cell count
  • stage B – more than 3 groups of enlarged lymph nodes and a high white blood cell count
  • stage C – enlarged lymph nodes or spleen, a high white blood cell count, and low red blood cell or platelet counts

In each stage, a group of lymph nodes means lymph nodes in one area of the body, for example, in the neck, underarms or groin. Each area counts as one group even if the nodes on both sides of the body are swollen.

You may have swollen lymph nodes under both your arms and this would count as one group. The spleen also counts as one group of lymph nodes.

The symptoms you might feel can include:

  • stage A, the only symptom you are likely to have is enlarged lymph nodes
  • stage B, you may feel tired and under the weather, or you may have no symptoms
  • stage C, you have low levels of red blood cells (anaemia) and feel tired. You might have signs of abnormal blood clotting, such as nosebleeds, bruising or heavy periods. You may get repeated infections. You might also lose weight and have night sweats
Last reviewed: 
15 Nov 2017
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow up
    B Eichorst and others. Annals of Oncology, 2015, Vol. 26 (Supplement 5): 78-84

  • ESMO consensus conference on malignant lymphoma: general perspectives and recommendations for prognostic tools in mature B-cell lymphomas and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia

    M Ladetto and others. Annals of Oncology, 2016, Vol 27 2149-2160

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