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Leukemia

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 more quickly and symptoms may worsen more quickly than with chronic leukemia, for example.

Early warning signs of leukemia

Leukemia symptoms often vary depending on the type of leukemia diagnosed. Some symptoms, like night sweats, fever, fatigue and achiness, resemble flu-like symptoms. Unlike symptoms of the flu, which generally subside as you get better, leukemia symptoms generally last longer than two weeks, and may include: 

  • Fever, chills
  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Loss of appetite, weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Bone/joint pain
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Frequent infections
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Petechiae (small red spots under the skin)

Because some conditions occur as side effects 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 may make you more prone to infections.

Thrombocytopenia: A low blood platelet count. Platelets are the blood cells responsible for blood clotting. A shortage of blood 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.