Leukemia: Symptoms


Like all blood cells, leukemia cells travel through the body. Depending on the number of abnormal cells and where these cells collect, patients with leukemia may have a number of symptoms

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever or night sweats
  • Frequent infections
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Headache
  • Bleeding and bruising easily (bleeding gums, purplish patches in the skin, or tiny red spots under the skin)
  • Pain in the bones or joints
  • Swelling or discomfort in the abdomen (from an enlarged spleen)
  • Swollen lymph nodes, especially in the neck or armpit
  • Weight loss

People with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) or chronic lymphcytic leukemia (CLL) may not have any symptoms. Some patients learn they have CML or CLL after a blood test as part of a regular checkup. Sometimes, a person with CLL may notice enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin and go to the doctor. The person may feel tired or short of breath (from anemia) or have frequent infections, if the CLL is more severe. In these cases, a blood test may show an increase in the lymphocyte count.

CML signs and symptoms tend to develop slowly. People with CML may feel tired and short of breath while doing everyday activities; they may also have an enlarged spleen, night sweats, and weight loss.