Leukemia is the term that refers to the cancer affecting the tissues that form blood in the body. White blood cells are directly impacted as the cancer is characterized by insufficient healthy white blood cell formation.
While blood cells are an important part of the body’s defense mechanisms. They grow and divide according to what the body needs.
In leukemia patients however, bone marrow produces them irregularly and, despite producing white blood cells, they fail to protect the body because they’re defective.
As the cancer advances, complications occur in the production of other blood cells, such as red blood cells or platelets.
It’s in that phase where anemia, hemorrhages become serious. In addition, the risk of contracting other types of infections also increases.
Leukemia Symptoms and Signs That Shouldn’t be Ignored
The most worrisome is that many people don’t know or mistake leukemia symptoms for something else, which makes it difficult to diagnose early.
This is why we’d like to share a thorough list of the 10 clinical leukemia symptoms and signs that you shouldn’t ignore.
1. Purple or red spots on your skin
Known in the medical world as petechiae, they’re reddish or purple spots that appear in clusters, usually on the chest, back or arms.
They result when blood coagulates and fails to flow normally. People often confuse them with skin rashes.
2. Bone or joint pain
There are many illnesses that can lead to bone and joint pain. However, in the case of leukemia, the pain results from the accumulation of defective white blood cells.
Patients feel a sharp pain or dull ache that varies in severity according depending on the affected zone.
Headache is one of most ignored leukemia symptoms. It’s an especially present symptom in cases of acute leukemia, often severe and long-lasting.
Headaches occur because there’s a restriction in the blood flow towards the brain and spinal cord. It’s similar to when blood vessels contract in the case of migraines.
4. Swollen glands
When leukemia compromises white and red blood cell production, the body’s ability to respond to infections weakens.
This situation alters the inflammatory processes and leads to swollen glands and lymph nodes or small, painless lumps that are blue or purple in color.
5. Weakness and tiredness
Leukemia isn’t the first thing to come to mind when you feel weak or tired. However, these signs aren’t to be taken lightly because this is one of the leukemia symptoms that we ignore.
The decrease in healthy red blood cells affects the body’s ability to transport oxygen and nutrients which results in anemia and chronic fatigue.
6. Unusual bleeding
All kinds of unusual and inexplicable bleeding can be one of the leukemia symptoms that are ignored. The lower blood platelet count affects blood’s ability to coagulate which increases susceptibility to hemorrhages.
7. Fevers and frequent infections
Any kind of leukemia weakens the immune system’s ability to respond to pathogens that can cause infections.
As a result, leukemia patients experience continuous episodes of fever and respiratory infections such as the flu.
The main reasoning is that cancerous blood cells stop white blood cells from fighting viruses and bacteria.
8. Inexplicable weight loss
Similar to what happens in other cases of cancer, leukemia patients can lose weight at alarming rates and for no apparent reason.
It can also be a side-effect of extreme fatigue and loss of appetite that patients might also experience.
9. Loss of breath
Loss of breath or difficulty in breathing results from the decreased oxygenation in cells due to the interference in blood flow.
Some people experience an inability to catch their breath, while others might feel like they’re not able to breathe to their full capacity.
10. Abdominal pain or swelling
When leukemia spreads, it can produce swelling in the liver or spleen, resulting in reoccurring abdominal pain or the feeling of fullness in the area below the rib cage.
Some patients might even feel a light pain in the lower back area or experience nausea, vomiting and alterations in intestinal activity.
The treatment for leukemia has seen important advances in recent years. However, a large part of its success depends on early detection of the cancer.
For this reason, you really should look into any of the aforementioned signs and leukemia symptoms, even if they might actually result from a less serious problem.