Symptoms of Leukemia
by Debra Wood, RN
Leukemia is classified as acute or chronic depending on how fast symptoms appear. Symptoms for acute leukemia appear faster and may prompt a visit to the doctor. Chronic leukemia is a much slower process. Some people may notice symptoms months or years after leukemia first appears, while others may have no symptoms at all. In people with no symptoms, leukemia may be found incidentally during a routine blood test.
If you experience any symptoms, do not assume it is due to cancer. Many symptoms can be caused by other, less serious conditions. However, it is still important to discuss them with your doctor. Early detection and treatment improve outcomes for both cancer and other health conditions.
Symptoms will depend on the type of blood cells that are affected.
A drop in the number of normal white blood cells makes it harder for the body to fight infection and may lead to:
A drop in the number of normal red blood cells is called anemia, which decreases the amount of oxygen reaching the body's tissues. Symptoms of anemia may include:
A drop in the number of normal platelet cells makes it harder for blood to clot properly. Without clotting, even small injuries can lead to severe bleeding. Symptoms may include:
Later stages of leukemia may cause:
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma (ALL) management. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated October 17, 2018. Accessed December 21, 2018.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated August 14, 2018. December 21, 2018.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)/small lymphocytic leukemia (SLL). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated November 21, 2017. Accessed December 21, 2018.
Chronic myeloid leukemia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated January 4, 2018. Accessed December 21, 2018.
Davis AS, Viera AJ, Mead MD. Leukemia: an overview for primary care. Am Fam Physician. 2014;89(9):731-738.
Overview of leukemia. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/leukemias/overview-of-leukemia. Updated December 2018. Accessed December 21, 2018.
Last reviewed October 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 2/2/2016
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