Leukemia is cancer of the white blood cells. These abnormal cells usually can’t carry out the normal functions of white blood cells. They crowd the bone marrow and spill into the blood and may then spread to organs such as the liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys. Sometimes, they may also spread into the fluid around the brain and spinal cord.
Because there are so many abnormal white cells crowded into the bone marrow, the marrow sometimes can’t make enough normal red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. There are several different types of Leukemia, which can either develop quickly over weeks or slowly over months and years. Leukemia is a group of cancers that usually begin in the bone marrow and result in high numbers of abnormal white blood cells.Chronic myeloid Leukemia usually progresses slowly at first. However, it may become more active and more like an acute Leukemia after several years. Damage to the bone marrow, by way of displacing the normal bone marrow cells with higher numbers of immature white blood cells, results in a lack of blood platelets, which are important in the blood clotting process. This means people with Leukemia may easily become bruised, bleed excessively, or develop pinprick bleeds. The symptoms of acute Leukemia usually appear quite suddenly, as this type of Leukemia develops quickly. Symptoms include:
1) Weakness, tiredness and looking ‘washed out’, which may be due to reduced numbers of red blood cells.
2) Bleeding that takes a long time to stop, for example, heavy nosebleeds or bruising easily, which may be due to a decrease in platelets.
3) Regular infections and high temperatures, which may be due to your white blood cells not working properly.
4) Pain in the bones and joints.
5) Weight loss.
6) Easily bruised skin.
7) A feeling of fullness or discomfort in your abdomen, caused by swelling of the liver or spleen.
Patients with chronic Leukemia may have some or all of these symptoms but often are diagnosed by chance when having blood tests for other reasons. Any condition that causes these symptoms needs to be promptly investigated and treated.