Pre-leukaemia is also referred to as Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) or "smouldering leukaemia." According to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center of Seattle, pre-leukaemia is characterised by the bone marrow's inability to produce sufficient amounts of blood cells. Pre-leukaemia is rarely diagnosed in children and is instead more commonly found in adults over the age of 50. It is also important to note that pre-leukaemia is more prevalent in men than women.
What Is Bone Marrow?
Bone marrow is the spongy material located within the bones that is responsible for creating stem cells. Stem cells mature over time and develop into white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. Unfortunately, in pre-leukaemia patients, many of the blood cells that are created by the bone marrow die before reaching maturity. The University of California, San Francisco explains that the bone marrow insufficiencies that are found in pre-leukaemia patients greatly increases their chances of developing full-blown, acute leukaemia.
Patients who suffer from pre-leukaemia often struggle with fatigue that can at times be overwhelming. The Mayo Clinic reports that the fatigue that is experienced often stems from a secondary condition known as anaemia. Anemia is denoted by a deficient amount of red blood cells (erythrocytes), which can also cause pre-leukaemia patients to feel weak and look pale. Shortness of breath is another symptom that is associated with pre-leukaemia. Red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body. When there are not enough red blood cells, oxygen supplies are limited. The result is difficulty breathing.
According to Mount Sinai Medical Center, a lack of white blood cells in the body is referred to as neutropenia. The human body relies on white blood cells to fight infection, so when the bone marrow is not producing enough white blood cells, infectious invaders have the upper hand. Infections that occur in the bodies of pre-leukaemia patients can cause high fevers and coughs. If left untreated, the coughs can manifest into dangerous upper-respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
When the body's temperature reading rises above the normal 37 degrees Celsius, it means that a fever is present. In most cases, a fever signifies that an infection exists somewhere in the body. But, in the book "Fever of Unknown Origin," author Burke A. Cunha explains that it is common for pre-leukaemia patients to develop a fever in the absence of an infection. For some pre-leukaemia patients, a fever of unknown origin may be the sole symptom that manifests, prolonging diagnosis.
Unexplained Bruising and Bleeding
The bone marrow of pre-leukaemia patients may not produce enough blood cell platelets, a condition known as thrombocytopenia. According to Caring4Cancer.com, blood cell platelets are responsible for the clotting that prevents excessive bleeding. When blood cell platelets are in short supply, pre-leukaemia patients may also experience unexplained bruising.