Symptoms and Signs of Leukemia

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on Leukemia

Leukemia is a general term for cancers (abnormal cells that multiply) of blood-forming immature cell types in the bone marrow that can spread into the blood and organs. Like many other diseases, the signs and symptoms of leukemias are non-specific; unexplained fevers, frequent infections, fatigue, easy bruising or bleeding, weight loss and night sweats. When leukemia cells aggregate in one or more organs, they may produce some of the following signs and symptoms: headache, confusion, seizures, balance problems, muscle control loss, blurry vision, swelling or nodules in the neck, armpits and/or groin, short of breath, nausea/vomiting, bone and joint pains and swelling and pain in the abdomen or testicles.

The exact cause of leukemia is not known. Associated risk factors for development include toxic exposures (like benzene), radiation exposure, smoking, previous chemotherapy, Human T-cell leukemia virus, myelodysplastic syndromes (blood cell abnormalities), genetics (abnormal genes and Down syndrome) and family history.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.