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Small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL)

Small lymphocytic lymphoma is a form of indolent (slow-growing) non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

It is a malignant condition (cancer) affecting a type of white blood cells called lymphocytes. Small lymphocytic lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) are different forms of the same disease. They are treated in the same way and have a similar outlook.

There are several different types of lymphocyte – SLL affects a type known as B cells, which normally produce antibodies to fight infection. Unlike leukaemia, in lymphoma, the cancer cells are found in organs and tissues of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of fine vessels, glands and channels which occur throughout the body. It also conveys nutrients and cells, and is responsible for draining fluid and waste products away from tissues, and into the blood stream to be processed. The lymphatic system is an important part of the immune system and is made up of lymph nodes and vessels and of collections of lymphocytes in other tissues.

Small lymphocytic lymphoma is a low-grade form of NHL, this means that it develops slowly and, even if not treated, it grows slowly. Small lymphocytic describes the appearance of the affected lymphocytes under the microscope.

  • Published: Mar 2017
  • Next planned review: Mar 2019