Occasionally, a person will have no symptoms or vague symptoms such as an ongoing cold, and the leukaemia is discovered during a routine blood test. Usually, people with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) find that some of the following symptoms appear quickly over a few weeks.
Fatigue or other signs of anaemia
Lack of red blood cells can cause anaemia. Signs of anaemia include tiredness, weakness, a pale complexion and breathlessness.
Increased bruising and bleeding
Lack of platelets can cause bruising without a bump or fall (spontaneous bruising), nosebleeds, bleeding gums, heavy periods in women, and small red or purple spots on the skin or mouth (known as petechiae).
Repeated or persistent infections
Lack of normal white blood cells can cause mouth sores, sore throats, fevers, sweats, coughing, boils, infected cuts or scratches, and frequent and painful passing of urine. It can also lead to more serious infections.
Enlarged spleen and lymph nodes
When leukaemia causes a build-up of abnormal white blood cells, the lymph nodes and spleen can become swollen. An enlarged spleen can cause pain or discomfort in the abdomen or back.
Less common symptoms
These include bone or joint pain, swollen and tender gums, skin rashes, headaches, weight loss, vision problems, vomiting and chest pains.
A/Prof John Moore (Conjoint UNSW), Senior Staff Specialist Haematology, Department of Haematology and Bone Marrow Transplant, Kinghorn Cancer Centre, St Vincent’s Hospital; Glynda Blomson, Consumer; Kevin Bloom, Senior Social Worker, Haematology and Bone Marrow Transplant, Royal North Shore Hospital; Sharon Frazer, Consumer; Prof Angela Hong, Radiation Oncologist, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, and Clinical Professor, The University of Sydney; Yvonne King, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Karen Maddock, Clinical Nurse Consultant – Haematology, Westmead Hospital.
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