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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.

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.