Leukemia - Symptoms

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What are leukemia symptoms and signs?

The symptoms and signs of leukemia depend upon the type of leukemia. As stated earlier, slow-growing or chronic leukemia may not cause any symptoms at the outset, while aggressive or rapidly growing leukemia may lead to severe symptoms. The symptoms of leukemia arise from a loss of function of the normal blood cells or from accumulation of the abnormal cells in the body.

Signs and symptoms of leukemia typically include the following:

  • Fevers
  • Night sweats
  • Swollen lymph nodes that are usually painless
  • Feelings of fatigue, tiredness
  • Easy bleeding or bruising, causing bluish or purplish patches on the skin or tiny red spots on the skin, or recurring nosebleeds
  • Frequent infections
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Weight loss that is otherwise unexplained, or loss of appetite
  • Enlargement of the spleen or liver, which can lead to abdominal pain or swelling
  • Red spots on the skin (petechiae)

If leukemia cells have infiltrated the brain, symptoms such as headaches, seizures, confusion, loss of muscle control, and vomiting can occur.

Return to Leukemia

See what others are saying

Comment from: stenfam, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: September 25

I was diagnosed with CML (chronic myelogenous leukemia) a year and a half ago. My only symptom was chronic fatigue. Since I had been treated for depression in the past (was off antidepressants and doing well for over a year at that point), I assumed it had returned and I made an appointment with primary care. In the meantime, I donated blood as I usually did every two months. It was two months from my prior donation at this time as well. Within a week of my donation I received a call requesting that I contact my doctor as soon as possible and request repeat blood work. I saw my doctor the next day. Based on those results, he told me he believed I had leukemia and sent me to oncology for confirmation. After a bone marrow biopsy, CML was confirmed. My only symptom had been chronic fatigue. With my past medical history, my doctor most likely would have prescribed an antidepressant and sent me on my way without a question from me, as I assumed that was the problem as well. In this case, donating blood saved my own life. With early detection, I still haven't had many of the symptoms described in this article. I never even felt sick until beginning treatment, but many side effects have subsided and I'm doing well. Please see your doctor if you aren't feeling well and suspect this may be the cause. Early detection really does make a difference when dealing with leukemia.

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Comment from: baylee 123, 13-18 Female (Caregiver) Published: November 30

In my family we have had a line of family members that have died of different cancers. I'm starting to worry that I might have leukemia because I have headaches constantly on a daily basis. I also have night sweats every night and getting so tired I have tried going to bed at 8 and waking up at 8. I am still so tired and during the day I would get a dull ache in my bones, or I would get a sharp stab in my joints. And I have a fuzzy pain in the back of my neck when looking down. My back is always sore; like always! I can't bend over to pick something up and I am 12.I get really sick, like heaps of ear, chest, skin, and throat infections all the time. Also every day I feel like I am going to throw up. I am starting to get bruised quite easily. I am always feeling I have a cold and my glands are always swollen. I have had phlegm at the back of my throat for years now. And I have a very uncomfortable pain in my liver and my tummy looks like it is swollen. My gums have been bleeding too and I have been really weak. I tell my parents but they don't think much of it. I am wondering if I should tell them I should go to the doctors.

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