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Leukemia Signs, Symptoms and Types

At Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, our knowledgeable, caring staff is here to support you and your family. We provide you with the leukemia information, support and resources you need to make informed decisions about your health.

As with all types of cancer, the earlier leukemia is found, the better the treatment outcome. If you notice signs or symptoms of leukemia, make an appointment with your doctor.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Leukemia?

While often thought of as a childhood cancer, leukemia is actually more common in adults. Signs and symptoms of leukemia are similar in both children and adults and often overlooked, attributing ailments to the flu and other common illnesses. Signs of leukemia vary depending on the type, although some patients don’t experience symptoms during the early stages. In some cases, leukemia symptoms develop slowly and in other cases rapid onset of symptoms may occur. Early symptoms may be overlooked as they mirror other common illnesses.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Leukemia in Men, Women and Children

  • Fever or chills
  • Loss of appetite or sudden weight loss
  • Bone or joint pain, tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Frequent viral or bacterial infections
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Recurrent nosebleeds
  • Persistent fatigue, weakness
  • Petechiae (tiny red spots under the skin)
  • Excessive sweating, especially at night
  • Swollen lymph nodes (lumps in the neck, groin or armpit)
  • Pain under the ribs

Symptoms of Advanced Leukemia

  • If it has spread to the brain: Headaches, seizures, balance problems or vision problems.
  • If it has spread to the chest: Breathing problems and chest pain.

Signs and Symptoms of Anemia

Anemia is a common occurrence for patients with acute leukemia. Anemia is a blood condition in which your body has a decreased number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Symptoms of anemia include:

  • Looking pale (pallor)
  • Feeling very tired or weak (fatigue)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or unusually rapid heart beat
  • Dizziness

Experiencing these symptoms doesn’t always mean you have leukemia so speak with a Banner MD Anderson health care provider if any changes in your health are concerning you – especially if you have flu-like symptoms for longer than usual. Our patient-focused approach ensures you get the support you need at all stages of your care.

Types of Leukemia

Banner MD Anderson uses the latest research and technologies to ensure you have access to the best diagnostic tests available. If diagnosed with leukemia, our caring team of experts will help you understand the type of leukemia you have and the most effective treatment options.

Leukemia may be either acute or chronic. Chronic leukemia progresses more slowly. Acute leukemia progresses rapidly and requires immediate treatment. Leukemia type matters because each type affects the body in a different way, has different symptoms and requires different treatment approaches.

Most common types of leukemia in adults:

  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
  • Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) – subset of AML
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)
  • Hairy cell leukemia (HCL) – rare type of chronic leukemia

Most common type of leukemia in children:

  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)

Other types of blood disorders:

  • Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML)
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS)
  • Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN)
  • Systemic mastocytosis

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