Symptoms of Leukemia

In both acute and chronic leukemias, as the number of leukemic cells increases, normal cells are crowded out of the bone marrow and symptoms may begin to develop.

The symptoms of acute leukemia generally appear suddenly and can also be similar to those of a virus or flu. Symptoms can be severe enough that they prompt patients to see a doctor soon after their onset.

When chronic leukemia first develops, symptoms may not arise for several years. CLL and CML are often discovered as an incidental finding of an elevated white blood cell count during the routine blood tests that are part of a regular checkup. With the passage of time, however, as the number of diseased cells increases they may infiltrate the bone marrow and/or other organs to the point that they cause significant problems.

The signs and symptoms that may develop from acute or chronic leukemias most commonly include:

  • anemia
  • bruising and bleeding, resulting from low levels of platelets, the blood component crucial to blood clotting and wound healing
  • infections caused by low levels of disease-fighting white blood cells
  • fevers, drenching night sweats, unintentional weight loss, and fatigue

Leukemic cells may also invade the liver, spleen, lymph nodes, and other organs, particularly in CLL and ALL, causing discomfort and/or compromise of normal organ function.

These symptoms can also be caused by other conditions and do not necessarily mean that you have leukemia. Speak with your doctor if you have any of these symptoms to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.