Symptoms of chronic myeloid leukaemia
CML develops slowly and many people don’t have symptoms in the early stages. It’s often discovered by chance when a blood test is done for another reason, such as before an operation or as part of a routine health check.
If there are symptoms in the early stages of CML, they develop gradually and are usually mild. They tend to be non-specific and can easily be confused with the symptoms of more common illnesses, such as flu.
The signs and symptoms of CML can include the following:
- Feeling tired or unwell
- Weight loss and loss of appetite
- Abdominal discomfort - people with CML sometimes have a feeling of fullness or tenderness on the left side of the tummy area (abdomen), which is caused by an enlarged spleen.
- Bleeding or bruising easily - this can happen if there aren’t enough platelets in the blood.
- Sweating or a high temperature at night
- Frequent infections - people with CML have a shortage of healthy white blood cells to fight off infections. Infections may be more severe and take longer to clear.
- Looking pale and feeling tired or breathless - this happens when there aren’t enough red blood cells and is called anaemia.
- Bone pain - this can happen because too many white blood cells crowd the bone marrow, causing pain.
- Enlarged lymph nodes - the lymph nodes can swell due to a build-up of leukaemia cells. They are usually painless.
- Small bumps in the skin
- Visual disturbances and headaches - these symptoms can occur because the tiny blood vessels in the eyes and brain get clogged with too many white blood cells. Sometimes an optician will notice changes to the blood vessels in the eye before there are any symptoms.
If you have any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor, but remember they are common to many illnesses other than CML