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.
Low levels of red blood cells (anaemia) can cause tiredness (fatigue), weakness, a pale complexion and breathlessness.
Increased bruising and bleeding
Low platelet levels can cause bruising without a bump or fall, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, heavy periods, and small red or purple spots on the skin or mouth (called petechiae).
Repeated or persistent infections
A lack of normal white blood cells can cause mouth sores or ulcers, sore throats, fevers, sweats, coughing, boils, infected cuts or scratches, and frequent and painful passing of urine. A low white blood cell level 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.
Dr Jonathan Sillar, Haematologist, Calvary Mater Newcastle Hospital; Dr Scott Dunkley, Haematologist, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse; Sharon Frazer, Consumer; Dr Robin Gasiorowski, Staff Specialist, Haematology, Concord Hospital; 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; Heather Mackay, Clinical Nurse Consultant – Haematology, Westmead Hospital; Katelin Mayer, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Cancer Outreach Team, Nelune Comprehensive Cancer Centre.
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