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Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms are changes in the body that may indicate disease. A sign is a change that the doctor sees during an examination or on a laboratory test result. A symptom is a change that a patient can see and/or feel. A person who has signs or symptoms that suggest the possibility of leukemia is usually referred to a specialist. This is a hematologist-oncologist. A hematologist-oncologist is a doctor who has special training in diagnosing and treating blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

 It is common for someone with ALL to feel a loss of well-being because of the underproduction of normal blood cells. This happens when the leukemia cells in the bone marrow crowd out the normal blood-making cells. Consequently, patients with ALL do not have sufficient numbers of mature red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

Symptoms of a low red blood cell count (anemia) include

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath during normal physical activities 
  • Dizziness 
  • Pale complexion

Symptoms of a low white blood count (leukopenia) include

  • Frequent infections
  • Fever

Symptoms of a low platelet count (thrombocytopenia) include

  • Bruising easily
  • Prolonged bleeding from minor cuts
  • The appearance of pinhead-sized red spots on the skin, called “petechiae”
  • Frequent or severe nosebleeds
  • Bleeding gums
  • Heavier or more frequent menstrual periods 

Other general symptoms of ALL include

  • Night sweats
  • Discomfort in bones or joints
  • Enlarged spleen, liver or lymph nodes
  • Pain or feeling of fullness below the ribs 
  • Unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Wheezing, coughing or painful breathing 

The signs and symptoms of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) are common to other, less serious illnesses. However, if you're troubled by any of these symptoms, see your doctor.


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