Leukemia, or cancer of the blood cells, causes subtle and surprising symptoms throughout the body. These are clear signs you need to get checked.
What is leukemia?
Leukemia is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow, a malignancy that causes an abnormal production of certain blood cells. As the unhealthy blood cells crowd out healthy ones, blood function begins to falter and you may notice physical symptoms. The disease may get worse quickly if you have a type known as acute leukemia; the disease may progress slowly and get worse over time if you have chronic leukemia, according to the National Institute of Health. Regardless of which type you have, if you notice a collection of these subtle leukemia symptoms, see your health care provider for an evaluation. Make sure you know the other symptoms of cancer that women commonly ignore.
Fatigue and weakness
Fatigue and weakness are the most common leukemia symptoms, according to Mark Levis, MD, PhD, the director of the leukemia program at the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. These signs are often caused by anemia (a deficiency of red blood cells), which only compounds the physical exhaustion. In both chronic and acute cases, you may experience a range from slight fatigue to extreme physical weakness, but in all cases, the symptoms only worsen over time. “It creeps up on people, that’s the problem,” says Dr. Levis. Here are some of the 50 cancer myths you need to stop believing.
Shortness of breath
As patients grow weaker and more fatigued, they may also experience shortness of breath that stems from anemia or, in much rarer cases, masses in the chest. “They’re panting, they’re out of breath,” says Dr. Levis. “Walking across the room might be difficult.” Shortness of breath also makes the list of lung cancer symptoms.