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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: Blessed, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: September 07

I was diagnosed at age 44 with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). I felt perfectly normal and had only one symptom. A huge bruise appeared on my arm. This led to tests which confirmed CML. Treatment began with chemotherapy. Gleevec (imatinib) was approved by the FDA just a couple months after my diagnosis. I have taken this medication for 16 years and consider myself fortunate. The medication is extremely expensive and I would not be able to afford it without insurance. The last time I checked it retailed for about 16 to 17,000 per month.

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Comment from: KathyE, 65-74 Male (Caregiver) Published: December 13

I recently lost my 70 year old husband to acute myeloid leukemia (AML). It was only 24 days from diagnosis to his passing. He had neck pain, back pain and was tired a lot. His temperature went up to 103 and that is when we took him to the emergency room. He had a bad bacterial infection. It was treated and then he received chemotherapy. After the chemotherapy treatment a growth developed at the base of his cerebellum. He was too weak for any type of surgery so they treated it with antibiotics, hoping it was another bacterial infection. Unfortunately the tumor kept growing and we had to let him pass. Even if he had gotten rid of the growth, his prognosis wasn't good because of his age. Miss him so much but thankful he didn't have to suffer long.

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Comment from: Steve, 25-34 Male (Caregiver) Published: June 23

My 30 year old fiance lost her yearlong battle with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in March. Here were her symptoms, the ones that triggered her to get a blood test, in order as they came. Shoulder and neck pain, bumps on elbow, chronic fatigue, swollen painful gums, and bruising.

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