Signs and symptoms of leukaemia

Leukaemia can be hard to spot because the signs and symptoms are common to other unrelated illnesses. Knowing what to look out for could help you make the decision to visit your GP sooner for a blood test.

The six most common symptoms experienced by all leukaemia patients prior to diagnosis. These are:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Bruising or bleeding
  3. Bone/joint pain
  4. Fever or night sweats
  5. Sleeping problems
  6. Shortness of breath

There are four main types of leukaemia that differ by the rate of cancer progression (acute or chronic) and the type of blood stem cell affected (myeloid or lymphoid). Certain leukaemia types are more common at different ages. This means the symptoms most frequently experienced by people of different ages prior to diagnosis can vary.

Spot the most common leukaemia and frequently experienced symptoms in your age group:

Childhood (below 16 years of age)

The most common leukaemia in this age range is acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). The most common symptoms in this age range are:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Fever
  3. Bruising
  4. Frequent infections
  5. Limb pain
  6. Stomach pain

16 to 24 year olds

The most common leukaemia in this age range is acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). The most common symptoms in this age range are:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Shortness of breath
  3. Bruising
  4. Bleeding
  5. Fever
  6. Weight loss

25 to 49 year olds

The most common leukaemia in this age range is acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). The most common symptoms in this age range are:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Shortness of breath
  3. Bruising
  4. Bleeding
  5. Fever
  6. Pains in bones and joints

50 to 64 year olds

The most common leukaemia in this age range is acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). The most common symptoms in this age range are:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Shortness of breath
  3. Infections
  4. Fever
  5. Pains in bones and joints
  6. Sleeping problems

65 and over

The most common leukaemia in this age range is chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). The most common symptoms in this age range are:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Shortness of breath
  3. Bruising
  4. Bleeding
  5. Fever
  6. Swollen lymph nodes

Other info

Other less frequently experienced symptoms of leukaemia are:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Numbness in hands or feet
  • Heart palpitations
  • Loss of concentration
  • Infections
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain
  • Back pain
  • Itchy skin
  • Weight loss

Our symptoms cards provide a handy document for spotting leukaemia in different age groups. You can download them here, or request a hard copy here.

If you spot several of the symptoms outlined above it could indicate a leukaemia diagnosis. This may not be the case, as the symptoms are common to other unrelated illnesses, but visiting the GP earlier can be crucial for either ruling leukaemia out or getting an early diagnosis. Early diagnosis saves lives, don’t delay.

If you are experiencing more severe symptoms, you may need to seek urgent medical care.

If you have further questions about the symptoms of leukaemia you can call our helpline on 08088 010 444 or if you are concerned, visit your GP.

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