Symptoms of CML

CML develops slowly and many people don’t have symptoms in the early stages. Sometimes CML is discovered by chance when a blood test is done before an operation or as part of a routine health check.

If there are symptoms in the early stages of CML, they are usually mild and develop gradually. The symptoms can be confused with the symptoms of more common illnesses, such as flu.

Common symptoms

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

  • Feeling generally tired.
  • Having a poor appetite and losing weight.
  • Heavy sweating or having a high temperature at night.
  • Feeling full or tender on the left side of your tummy (abdomen). This is caused by abnormal blood cells (leukaemia cells) collecting in the spleen, making it bigger. The spleen is part of the lymphatic system. The spleen stores blood cells and destroys old and damaged blood cells. The bone marrow and the lymph nodes (glands) are also part of the lymphatic system.
The spleen in the lymphatic system
The spleen in the lymphatic system

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Less common symptoms

Sometimes abnormal white blood cells (the leukaemia cells) build up in the blood and bone marrow. The bone marrow may not be able to make enough healthy red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. This can cause the following symptoms:

  • Bleeding or bruising, due to a lack of platelets in the blood. This may include bruising without any obvious cause, bleeding gums or nosebleeds. Women may bleed more heavily during their periods.
  • 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 can happen if there are too many leukaemia cells in the bone marrow.
  • Visual disturbances and headaches. This can happen if the blood becomes thick because it contains too many white blood cells.

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.

I was having all sorts of different symptoms – aching limbs, tiredness, night sweats, headaches. As it went on, it didn’t seem quite right.


Back to Understanding chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML)

What is CML?

Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) is a rare type of cancer. It causes the body to make too many white blood cells.

The blood

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