Leukemia

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

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Leukemia Symptoms

Leukemia is actually a group of different cancers of the blood cells. Leukemias can be acute or chronic, and people with chronic leukemias may not notice any symptoms before the condition is diagnosed with a blood test. Acute leukemias are more likely to cause symptoms. Symptoms of all forms of leukemia are related to the proliferation of abnormal blood cells and replacement of the bone marrow by the cancerous cells.

Symptoms of leukemia include fevers, night sweats, and swollen lymph nodes that are typically not painful or tender. Fatigue, weight loss, and bone or joint pain are other potential symptoms. Easy bruising and bleeding tendencies may result in bleeding from the gums, purplish patches on the skin, or small red spots under the skin.

Leukemia facts

  • Leukemia is a cancer of blood cells (and therefore sometimes referred to as blood cancer).
  • While the exact cause(s) of leukemia is not known, risk factors have been identified, including radiation exposure and exposure to benzene.
  • Common symptoms of chronic or acute leukemia may include
  • Leukemias are grouped by how quickly the disease develops (acute or chronic) as well as by the type of blood cell that is affected (lymphocytes or myelocytes). The four main types of leukemia include acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), acute myelocytic leukemia (AML), and chronic myelocytic leukemia (CML).
  • People with leukemia are at significantly increased risk for developing infections, anemia, and bleeding. Other symptoms and signs include easy bruising, weight loss, night sweats, and unexplained fevers.
  • The diagnosis of leukemia is supported by findings of the medical history and examination, and examining blood and bone marrow samples under a microscope.
  • Treatment of leukemia depends on the type of leukemia, certain features of the leukemia cells, the extent of the disease, and prior history of treatment, as well as the age and health of the patient.
  • Most patients with leukemia are treated with chemotherapy. Some patients also may have radiation therapy and/or bone marrow transplantation.
  • There is no known way to prevent leukemia.
  • The prognosis of leukemia depends upon several factors, including the patient's age, the type of leukemia, and the extent to which the cancer has spread.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/3/2016
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