Symptoms and Risk Factors

The symptoms of leukemia can be subtle. This is one reason why it’s important to keep regular appointments with your primary care provider, especially as you age. Sometimes, they can catch leukemia before you start showing symptoms.

What are the symptoms of leukemia?

Some patients with leukemia feel very unwell. Others have no idea that anything is wrong – the symptoms may be so vague that they are easily dismissed, or there may not be any symptoms at all.

Acute leukemias tend to cause more obvious symptoms than chronic leukemias, which are usually discovered during routine bloodwork.

The following symptoms can indicate leukemia:

  • Unexplained fevers or frequent infections
  • Sweating at night
  • Swollen lymph nodes or spleen
  • Abnormal bleeding or bruising
  • Petechiae (tiny blood spots under the skin)
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unintended weight loss

It’s important to keep in mind that most of these symptoms can be caused by other conditions. Symptoms that occur repeatedly are more likely to indicate a problem than symptoms that appear in isolated instances.

You know your body best. If you are experiencing any symptoms that worry you, contact your doctor’s office for an appointment.

Risk Factors

Some people are more susceptible to leukemia than others. Common risk factors include:

  • Being more than 70 years old
  • Caucasian race
  • Male sex
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome
  • Having certain genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome
  • Having a family history of CLL or cancer of the lymph system

In addition, certain substances, such as tobacco smoke, the chemical benzene, and radiation or chemotherapy, are known to increase one’s risk of leukemia over time.