Ask the Doctor Question:
As a CLL patient how do we know when we become immune compromised? Or are all CLL patients’ immune compromised at varying degrees? If the latter is true (as I expect), is there a test that will indicate a risk factor of the immune system?
Answer: CLL is a chronic cancer of the B cells. The B cells are a type of lymphocyte (white blood cell found in the lymphatic system) that has many responsibilities, but one of the most important ones is being part of the internal army that helps defend us from infections. So, because CLL is a disease which involves the immune system, it is very important to remember that many aspects of our immune response are badly compromised at the time of diagnosis, and only get worse with time. So, to answer your question, you are immunocompromised as soon as you receive your diagnosis.
There is no one test that gives an exact picture of the degree to which you are immunocompromised. We would encourage you to talk with your CLL expert physician to discuss if they think it is in your best interest to have various antibody or immunoglobulin levels drawn. Here is good article on our website about infections and how those with CLL can best prevent them.