The first symptoms of leukemia

Updated July 19, 2017

The first symptoms of leukaemia match many other ailments, some of which are much less serious. It is always wise to consult a health-care professional when experiencing these symptoms. Leukaemia, a blood cancer, often presents with one or more of the following: persistent low-grade fever, shortness of breath, tiredness and/or weight loss that cannot be explained due to diet or a new exercise regimen. Each of the types of leukaemia also have particular symptoms.


Some of the symptoms overlap several of the leukaemia types. These include: pale skin, pinhead-size red spots under the skin, enlarged spleen, bruises for no apparent reason and enlarged lymph nodes. Infections that persist and a loss of a sense of well being also point to the blood cancers.


Each of the five main types of leukaemia have symptoms that make them unique from the others. There are five main types of leukaemia.

Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) symptoms include swollen gums, slow -healing cuts and aches in bones.

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia often starts with no apparent symptoms. The unique symptoms include night sweats and/or the intolerance of warm temperatures.

Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) mimics many other ailments. Some symptoms include aches in legs, arms and back; headaches; and vomiting.

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia symptoms develop more slowly and match the symptoms above.

Hairy Cell Leukemia is a slow-growing form of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.


There are other types of blood cancers. They include:

Hodgkin's lymphoma Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
Myelodysplastic syndrome
Myeloproliferative diseases

Many symptoms of these diseases overlap the types of leukaemia.


Do not associate all blood count numbers that are too high or too low with blood cancers. According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, "About 5 per cent of healthy people will have test results that are outside of the expected range for a given test. Also, several noncancerous conditions may cause blood cell counts to be higher or lower than expected."

Leukaemia is not a death sentence. Death rates for the disease have decreased based on statistics since the mid-1990s.


There are new treatments and therapies for leukaemia being tested all the time. Bone-marrow transplants and umbilical stem-cell transplants are improving survivial rates. The potential for recovery and/or remission also increases if the disease is caught in an early stage.

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About the Author

Patrice Athanasidy has been writing freelance stories for over 20 years in the New York metropolitan area. Her publications include weekly newspapers and regional magazines. She also works with not-for-profits, handling public relations and grants projects. Patrice graduated from Manhattan College and Fordham University with a masters in public communications.