Symptoms of CML

CML develops slowly and many people don’t have symptoms in the early stages. It is often discovered by chance when a blood test is done for another reason, for example 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. The symptoms are usually vague and can easily be confused with the symptoms of more common illnesses, such as flu.

If you do have symptoms, they may include the following.

Common symptoms

  • Feeling generally tired or unwell.
  • Having a poor appetite and losing weight.
  • Feeling full or tender on the left side of your tummy (abdomen). This is caused by an enlarged spleen.
  • Sweating or a high temperature at night.

Rarer symptoms

  • Having various infections one after the other. This is caused by a lack of healthy blood cells.
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising. This may include bruising without any obvious cause, bleeding gums, frequent nosebleeds and heavy periods in women. This is caused by a lack of platelets in the blood.
  • Looking pale and feeling tired or breathless. This is caused by a lack of red blood cells in the blood (anaemia).
  • Aching joints and bones. This happens because there are too many white blood cells collecting in the bone marrow.
  • Enlarged lymph nodes. This happens because leukaemia cells are collecting in the lymph nodes and making them swell. It is usually painless.
  • Small bumps in the skin.
  • Itching.
  • Visual disturbances and headaches. This happens because the tiny blood vessels in the eyes and brain get clogged up 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 is important to see your doctor. But remember that these can be symptoms of many illnesses other than CML.

Back to Understanding chronic myeloid leukaemia

The blood

To understand chronic myeloid leukaemia, it helps to understand a bit about your blood.