Learn More About Leukemia Symptoms: Chat with Us | Email Us
What Are the Symptoms of Leukemia?
Many people often do not experience symptoms in the early stages of certain types of leukemia, or the symptoms develop slowly. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) progress much faster and symptoms may worsen more quickly than with the chronic leukemias (CML and CLL).
Some general symptoms of leukemia include:
- Fever, chills
- Fatigue, weakness
- Loss of appetite, weight loss
- Night sweats
- Bone/joint pain
- Abdominal discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent infections
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Petechiae (small red spots under the skin)
Some leukemia symptoms, like night sweats, fever, fatigue and achiness, often resemble flu-like symptoms. If you have the flu, symptoms will likely subside as you get better. Make an appointment to see your doctor if the symptoms persist longer than expected.
NOTE: These symptoms may be attributed to a number of conditions other than cancer. It is important to consult with a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis.
Other Potential Symptoms of Leukemia
Because some conditions coincide with the presence of the disease, the following may be signs of leukemia:
- Anemia: A low red blood cell count. Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body. This condition may contribute to weakness, fatigue or shortness of breath.
- Leukopenia: A low white blood cell count. A decrease in the production of functional leukocytes (white blood cells) weakens the body's immune defense, which can make you more prone to infections.
- Thrombocytopenia: A low blood platelet count. Platelets are the blood cells responsible for blood clotting. A shortage of bloods platelets may lead to easy bruising or bleeding.
- Swollen Lymph Nodes: In some cases, the signs of leukemia may include noticeable swelling of the neck, armpit or groin. This occurs when leukemia has spread to the lymph nodes.
- Enlarged Liver or Spleen: The build-up of abnormal blood cells in the liver or spleen may cause a feeling of fullness (loss of appetite) or swelling in the upper left side of the abdomen.
Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) and Leukemia
Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) is a condition in which the bone marrow does not produce enough normal blood cells for the body. Some cases of MDS may, over time, progress to leukemia (generally AML).
Understanding Leukemia Symptoms
Our blood is a composite of many types of cells that serve different functions. Leukemia starts in the developing blood cells (stem cells) within the bone marrow. White blood cells are part of the body's immune response and fight infection. Red blood cells circulate oxygen throughout the body, and platelets help the blood clot.
As the cancerous cells build up in the marrow, the functional white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets are crowded out. The shortage of blood cells affects our body's ability to protect against infection and disease, transport oxygen and control bleeding.
Next Topic: Leukemia Diagnosis