Signs and Symptoms of Leukemia

In many cases, the first signs and symptoms of leukemia are nonspecific (vague). Early signs also may occur with other types of cancer or with other medical conditions. Although leukemia signs and symptoms vary depending on the type of disease, there are some general features.

Broad symptoms of leukemia include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Malaise (vague feeling of bodily discomfort)
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Excessive bruising
  • Weakness
  • Reduced exercise tolerance
  • Weight loss
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Infection and fever
  • Abdominal pain or "fullness"
  • Enlarged spleen, lymph nodes and liver

Chronic leukemia often goes undetected for many years and may be identified in a routine blood test. In fact, nearly one in five chronic leukemia patients do not report symptoms at the time of diagnosis. Most symptoms of acute leukemia are caused by low levels of normal blood cells, which is due to overcrowding of the blood-forming bone marrow by leukemia cells.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 13 Aug 1999

Last Modified: 24 Sep 2015