As with most cancers, leukemia's cause is unknown. The disease affects white blood cells. With early treatment, chances for full recovery are often quite good.
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Are you tired? Leukemia causes fatigue because the increased production of white blood cells (WBCs) uses up more of your body's energy.
Have you lost weight? Are you eating as much as ever, but your clothes are getting looser? Leukemia causes weight loss because the increased production of WBCs uses up calories.
Take note of unexplained headaches and/or confusion. Abnormal and increased amounts of WBCs may be infiltrating your central nervous system.
Does your child have a tendency to bleed or bruise easily? This is a common symptom of childhood leukemia. A youngster's skin may be peppered with tiny red dots. This could be a symptom of leukemia-related spleen and liver enlargement.
Check your pallor. Have your cheeks lost their rosy glow? This may be a symptom of leukemia. An increase in WBCs can crowd out red blood cells, making you appear anemic.
Examine your lymph nodes. Feel under your armpits. Do you feel any lumps or bulges? Feel under your throat, where your jaw meets your neck, for lumps or bulges. Swollen lymph nodes are a possible sign of leukemia.
Evaluate yourself for unexplained chronic infections that never seem to go away. Even though your body is producing more WBCs, which are the body's infection fighters, the WBCs of a person with leukemia are immature and unable to fight off diseases.
Check for an enlarged spleen. Lay down in bed and place the palm of your hand on the left side of your abdomen, below your rib cage. Feel for a lump or mass. This may be a sign of leukemia.
Keep track of unusual night sweats, bone pain and/or abdominal fullness. All are possible signs of leukemia.
Tips and warnings
- Sometimes there are no warning signs or symptoms of leukemia. Doctors first detect it after performing a routine complete blood count (CBC) laboratory test.
- For more information, call the Leukemia Society of America at (800) 955-4LSA.
- If you have any questions or concerns, contact a physician or other health care professional before engaging in any activity related to health and diet. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment.