8 uncommon signs of leukemia
Leukemia, or blood cancer, is a type of cancer that develops in the white blood cells. It also starts with the lymphatic system and the bone marrow. The white blood cells are the body’s natural defense system against infections and allergies. Under normal circumstances, these cells grow and multiply whenever the body needs to fight off intruders. However, the white blood cells start to malform and multiply at a higher rate with the onset of the cancer.
Uncommon signs of leukemia
The symptoms of leukemia start to appear within a few days or weeks of tumor growth. Generally, the early indicators of this form of cancer are difficult to diagnose since they are similar to the signs of other health disorders such as influenza or GERD. As a result, diagnosis often happens later, when the severity of the symptoms increases. Therefore, if one is at a high risk of leukemia, it helps to be aware of some of the rare symptoms of the disease. Here are some of them:
This symptom is generally observed in about 5% of leukemia patients. It is generally experienced before an accurate prognosis has been received. With a lot of physical and emotional changes occurring in the body, blood cancer can trigger nausea and vomiting. Several other underlying reasons can cause these symptoms. For instance, blood cancer may cause frequent constipation or other problems related to the bowel. With the digestive system disrupted, one may frequently experience vomiting and nausea.
In some cases, leukemia can lead to calcium leaking into the bloodstream. As a result, calcium levels in the blood rise to quite high levels. This phenomenon is known as hypercalcemia. This can cause a person to feel thirsty and drowsy. It can also cause brain fog, making one feel confused and unable to think coherently. In addition, it may cause a person to make frequent trips to the bathroom. This uncommon symptom is usually observed in cases of myeloma and plasma cell leukemia.
3. Pale skin
The abnormal cancerous cells, also known as blasts, grow at an increased rate. They begin to crowd out the healthy cells created by the bone marrow. Moreover, the leukemia cells start to outnumber the red blood cells. Both of these factors can sometimes affect the appearance of the skin, making one look pale.
4. Aches in the arms, legs, or hips
With the cancer cells building up in the bone marrow, tumors begin to grow. As a result, the bone marrow starts to expand. Due to this, it begins to put a strain on the adjoining nerves and neighboring joints. This can trigger frequent aches. This particularly happens in the legs, hips, and arms.
5. Swollen gums
Generally, swollen gums are an indicator of bad oral hygiene. However, this symptom can also occur due to leukemia. This happens when the cancer cells migrate through the blood to the gum tissues. Due to this, the gums start to swell up. In extreme cases, the swollen gums may start to cover the teeth, making this symptom quite visible.
6. Enlarged spleen or liver
The spleen and the liver are organs located around the abdomen. Their primary function is to filter blood and bile and fight off infection. Due to leukemia, the cancer cells may travel to these organs through the blood. As the cells get trapped in the spleen and liver, there is aggressive cellular buildup. As a result, these organs start to swell and become enlarged.
7. Night sweats
If leukemia is causing infections, it can lead to night sweats. As a result, a person may get completely drenched in sweat in their sleep. This disrupts their sleeping pattern as well.
8. Fever or chills
These symptoms are known to occur in about a quarter of acute leukemia cases. However, fever and chills do not occur in cases of chronic leukemia. The fever can last between one and two weeks.
If a person experiences any of the above signs, it does not necessarily indicate leukemia. However, if most of these signs occur along with other well-known symptoms of blood cancer, it is crucial to seek medical consultation. Once diagnostic tests and screenings are performed, only then can an accurate conclusion be reached regarding leukemia.
Common signs of leukemia
Here are a few signs of leukemia:
1. Fatigue and weakness
These are two of the most common symptoms of leukemia. These are caused by anemia, which results from the red blood cell count being outnumbered by the abnormal white blood cell count. It causes physical exhaustion, leading to a constant feeling of tiredness. The level of fatigue can range from mild to severe, persistent weakness. Over time, it becomes worse as the cancer progresses.
2. Spontaneous and excessive bruising
Leukemia may cause several bruises to appear without any evident physical injury. This unusual and spontaneous bruising results from a low platelet count. This leads to several clotting issues, which cause bruises to appear on the extremities, such as fingers and toes.
3. Unusual bleeding
The low platelet count and clotting issues also cause this common symptom of leukemia. The bleeding may occur in the gums, lungs, bowels, and head. In some cases, there might be frequent nose bleeds as well.
This is a condition in which small red spots appear under the skin. It is usually caused by internal bleeding. The spots are generally not noticeable because they are too small and painless. In addition, they usually occur in the lower extremities, such as the ankles, so they are not very visible. Petechiae occurs due to the low platelet count and issues with blood clotting.
5. Swollen lymph nodes
Since leukemia originates from the lymphatic system, the lymph nodes are bound to get swollen. This happens as the cancer advances. The tumors grow close to the lymph nodes, making them swell up. This is why most physical examinations and screening tests for leukemia involve checking the lymph nodes for changes in size.