Leukemia is cancer of your body's blood-forming tissues, including your bone marrow and lymphatic system. It usually starts in your white blood cells.
Your white blood cells are potent infection fighters — they normally grow and divide in an orderly way, as your body needs them. But in leukemia, your bone marrow produces a large number of abnormal white blood cells, which don't function properly. Leukemia isn't just a children's disease. It has four main types and many subtypes — and only some are common among children.
A diagnosis of leukemia can cause you a great deal of concern, and treatment can be complex — varying on the type of leukemia and other factors. But there are strategies and resources that may make your road easier.
They differ for each type of leukemia, but common leukemia symptoms include:
- Fever or chills
- Persistent fatigue, weakness
- Frequent infections
- Loss of appetite or weight
- Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
- Easy bleeding or bruising
- Shortness of breath when you're physically active, as while climbing steps
- Tiny red spots in your skin (petechiae)
- Excessive sweating, especially at night
- Bone pain or tenderness
The severity of signs and symptoms depends on the number of abnormal blood cells and where they collect. You may overlook early symptoms of leukemia because they may resemble symptoms of the flu and other common illnesses.