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What are the symptoms?

Symptoms for CLL and CML

Many people with chronic leukaemia have no symptoms. Often the disease is diagnosed after a routine blood test shows a high white blood cell count. In the early stages, symptoms tend to be mild and develop slowly.

  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck, underarms or groin
  • pain and/or feeling of fullness in the abdomen after eating only small amounts – caused by an enlarged spleen
  • tiredness – caused by a lack of red blood cells
  • frequent and persistent infections – caused by a lack of normal white blood cells leading to lowered immunity
  • bruising or bleeding – caused by low levels of platelets
  • excessive sweating at night
  • high temperature (fever) without any other signs of infection
  • weight loss

Symptoms for AML and ALL

Occasionally, a person will have no symptoms or vague symptoms such as an ongoing cold, and the leukaemia is discovered during a routine blood test. However, many people with AML find that some of the following symptoms appear quickly over a few weeks.

  • Fatigue or other signs of anaemia
  • Increased bruising and bleeding
  • Repeated or persistent infections
  • Enlarged spleen and lymph nodes

Less common symptoms of leukaemia include bone or joint pain, swollen and tender gums, skin rashes, headaches, weight loss, vision problems, vomiting and chest pains.

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This information is reviewed by

This information was written and last reviewed in September 2020 by Cancer Council SA's experienced information team with support from national Cancer Council publications.