The signs and symptoms of leukaemia

Leukaemia signs by age
on Thu 20 Sep


You might be surprised to know that blood cancer is the third biggest fatal cancer and claims more lives than prostate and breast cancer each year. Having said that there has been tremendous progress in terms of survival. In 1960 less than 1 in 10 children survived with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, today nearly 8 in 10 beat the disease.


There are many different forms of blood cancer, traces of which have even been observed in fossils.  However it was not until 1832 that Thomas Hodgkin described Lymphoma and clinical diagnosis began.


There are now three main recognised types of blood cancers – Leukaemia, Lymphoma, Myeloma and 100 separate subtypes. All of these stem from abnormal blood cells growing in an uncontrolled way and preventing the blood from performing its usual function of fighting off infection or preventing a serious bleed.


The awareness month for blood cancer is the whole of September and 2018’s theme for Leukaemia Care is to raise awareness about leukaemia because


  • 19% of patients are initially treated for something else by their GP before being diagnosed with leukaemia as the symptoms are easily attributable to other conditions.


  • 17% experience symptoms for 7 months before diagnosis


I thought it would be helpful to list the 6 most common symptoms

These are:

  1. Tiredness
  2. Bruising or bleeding
  3. Pain in the bones or joints
  4. Fever or night sweats
  5. Breathlessness
  6. Trouble sleeping


At any one time there are about 230,000 people in the UK living with a blood cancer. 550 children under 16 are diagnosed annually.  Four 16 to 24 year olds are diagnosed each week. There are around 850 annual cases in people aged 25 to 49; 20% of leukaemia patients will be aged 50 to 64 and  66% will be over 65.


Symptoms vary according to age

  • Children with experience 1, 2, 3, 4 and additionally repeated infections and stomach pain
  • 16-24 year olds will experience 1, 2, 3, 4,5 and additionally headaches
  • 25 to 49 year olds will experience 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and repeated infections
  • 50 to 64 year olds will also experience 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and repeated infections
  • Those of 65 and over will experience 1, 2, 4, 5 and additionally weight loss and swollen lymph nodes


Less common symptoms include:

  • Nausea or sickness
  • Numb hands or feet
  • Palpitations
  • Loss of concentration
  • Headaches
  • Itchy skin
  • Weight loss


If you notice several of the above symptoms in yourself, a member of the family, a friend or colleague then an early visit to the GP is advisable. There’s no doubt that early diagnosis saves lives.


Please get in touch if this information has caused concern.


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