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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. Overall, the signs and symptoms of leukemia can affect men or women and do not differ by sex or gender. They include:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Bone pain (caused by leukemia cells spreading from the marrow cavity to the surface of the bone or into the joint)
  • 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 happen with other cancers, as well as with many conditions that aren't cancer.

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 don't make enough red blood cells, properly functioning white blood cells, and 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 don't 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 easy bruising or bleeding, with frequent or severe nosebleeds and bleeding gums. Some patients with CML actually have too many platelets (thrombocytosis). But those platelets often don't work the way they should, so 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 Tests for Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. )

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

American Society of Clinical Oncology. Leukemia - Chronic Myeloid - CML: Symptoms and Signs. 11/2016. Accessed at on May 14, 2018.

National Cancer Institute. Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version. March 30, 2018. Accessed at on May 14, 2018.

Last Revised: February 27, 2024

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