Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood and blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow. This malignancy leads to abnormal production of damaged blood cells. Blood functions start to fade due to overpopulation of unhealthy blood cells than the healthy ones, and you may observe some noticeable physical symptoms when this happens. According to the National Institute of Health, this condition may worsen fast in the case of acute leukemia, while in chronic leukemia, the condition may slowly progress and become worse over time. Irrespective of the type of leukemia, make sure you see your doctor immediately for evaluation if you notice a combination of any of the subtle symptoms of leukemia mentioned in this post. It’s also advisable you learn about other cancer symptoms usually ignored by women.
1- Fatigue and weakness
According to Dr. Mark Levis, who is a director of the leukemia program at Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, body weakness and fatigue are the most common symptoms of leukemia. These signs normally arise due to anemia (red blood cell deficiency), which leads to physical exhaustion. You may experience slight body fatigue to extreme body weakness in both acute and chronic types of leukemia, and the symptom tends to get worse over time. According to Dr. Levis, “it creeps up on people; that’s the problem.”
2- Petechiae (small red spots under the skin caused by bleeding)
Petechiae is described as “someone painted little red dots with a pen,” according to Dr. Crilley. The spots, which are difficult to notice because they are painless, and their size and placement in the lower extremities (arms/legs) is a sign of low platelet count and a symptom of leukemia. Petechiae are usually found around the ankles since gravity causes bodily fluids to accumulate in the lower legs all through the day, according to Dr. Levis
3- Swollen lymph nodes
Check areas of your body like armpit, neck, and groin areas for noticeable swellings in your lymph nodes that are painless. An increase or decrease in size during infection is normal, but if they continue to grow or stay enlarged, and Dr. Crilley says this may be a symptom of leukemia.
4- Frequent or recurrent infection
You should go for a complete blood count to diagnose any abnormalities in your hemoglobin, white blood cell, and platelet levels if you happen to develop frequent or recurrent infection that refuses to stop no matter the antibiotics you have taken following your physician prescriptions. You could have a compromised/weakened immune system if you have abnormal levels of white blood cells; this could explain why you have recurrent or frequent infections. If you have frequent infections alongside other symptoms like unexplained bruising or fatigue, then you need to see your doctor immediately. According to Dr. Levis, “Leukemia is always a surprise; it sneaks up on you.” Patients who have leukemia can be asymptomatic or may display similar symptoms to other diseases; thus, it’s crucial you go for a physical examination, bone marrow biopsy, and blood count to determine the type of leukemia as well as the treatment required.
5- Enlarged and swollen gums
Gingival hyperplasia, which refers to an increase in gum size, it usually found only in a small portion of patients with acute leukemia; however, it is one of the most obvious symptoms of leukemia. According to Dr. Crilley, “if you have a patient with leukemia, you always look in their mouth to see if the gingiva has gotten bigger. The guy may appear swollen, and you will almost feel a strange tightness in your mouth.”
6- Pain or discomfort in the upper left abdomen
One may experience sharp pain or discomfort in the abdomen due to an enlarged spleen caused by leukemia. A few weeks ago, I came across a patient with chronic leukemia, part of his spleen had died off due to spleen enlargement,” according to Dr. Levis. “the pain was terrible. It was a sharp abdominal pain.” The discomfort is felt in the upper-left quadrant of the abdomen because the spleen is located there.
7- A skin rash
Out of every 20 leukemia patients, one may develop a skin rash under any of these two categories: skin leukemia or a rash due to Sweet’s syndrome, which is usually linked with leukemia. According to Dr. Levis, “skin leukemia almost appears like your skin has a lump inserted inside it. A little mound begins to grow. Occasionally, it can be a plague-like thing.” While rashes caused by Sweet’s syndrome appear red and severe, like if one has an allergy. Although rashes on the skin appear in different sizes and shapes, rashes related to leukemia have a common feature: the rashes grow and spread continuously.
8- Excessive or spontaneous bruising
According to Pamela Crilley, DO, chair of the department of medical oncology at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and Chief of Medical Oncology at the Eastern Regional Medical Center, one of the many symptoms of leukemia is unexplained or unusual bruises without any physical trauma. Dr. Levis explains that clotting issues or a low platelet count could be responsible for this unusual bruising. According to him, “You will bruise spontaneously, seeming doing nothing. It can occur anywhere, but they usually occur on the arms and legs.”