Signs and symptoms of chronic myeloid leukemia
The symptoms of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) are often vague and are more often caused by other things. They include:
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Bone pain
- An enlarged spleen (felt as a mass under the left side of the ribcage)
- Pain or a sense of "fullness" in the belly
- Feeling full after eating even a small amount of food
But these aren't just symptoms of CML. They can occur with other cancers, as well as many non-cancerous conditions.
Some patients have bone pain or joint pain caused by leukemia cells spreading from the marrow cavity to the surface of the bone or into the joint.
Problems caused by a shortage of blood cells
Many of the signs and symptoms of CML occur because the leukemia cells replace the bone marrow's normal blood-making cells. As a result, people with CML do not make enough red blood cells, properly functioning white blood cells, and blood platelets.
- Anemia is a shortage of red blood cells. It can cause weakness, tiredness, and shortness of breath.
- Leukopenia is a shortage of normal white blood cells. This shortage increases the risk of infections. Although patients with leukemia may have very high white blood cell counts, the leukemia cells do not protect against infection the way normal white blood cells do.
- Neutropenia means that the level of normal neutrophils is low. Neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, are very important in fighting infection from bacteria. People who are neutropenic have a high risk of getting very serious bacterial infections.
- Thrombocytopenia is a shortage of blood platelets. It can lead to excess bruising or bleeding, with frequent or severe nosebleeds and bleeding gums. Some patients with CML actually have too many platelets (thrombocytosis). But since those platelets often do not function properly, these people often have problems with bleeding and bruising as well.
The most common sign of CML is an abnormal white blood cell count (blood counts are discussed further in the next section, “How is chronic myeloid leukemia diagnosed?”).
Last Medical Review: 09/23/2013
Last Revised: 02/10/2014