Spotting Leukemia Symptoms
- Clare Crossey, 35, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia after a series of odd symptoms led her to believe she had cancer. She was originally told she was being “overly anxious,” but her persistence got her to a correct diagnosis quicker.
- Leukemia is a type of blood cancer. Symptoms vary depending on the type of leukemia, but general symptoms for the disease include: Fever or chills, persistent fatigue, weakness, frequent or severe infections, losing weight without trying, swollen lymph nodes, an enlarged liver or spleen, easy bleeding or bruising, recurrent nosebleeds, tiny red spots in your skin (petechiae), excessive sweating as well as bone pain or tenderness.
- Advocating for your health is extremely important. You never know when speaking up about issues with your body can make a world of difference for health outcomes. One of our experts says that there should be a plan for what the doctor is going to do for you after your leave every appointment.
Clare Crossey is a 35-year-old former care worker and mother of two. She was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in February 2018, ut that diagnosis came after some research of her own that led her to believe she had leukemia. At the time, she was suffering from a variety of symptoms including feeling tired and unwell, rashes and bruising.Read More
Despite being originally told she was just “overly anxious,” Crossey decided to press on and try to figure out what was wrong. She called a nearby hospital and was told to come in for blood tests.
“A short time after arriving at the hospital, I received a blood test,” she said. “The results came back very quickly and when both a doctor and nurse came to talk to me. I just knew it was serious.”
Upon confirming her leukemia diagnosis, she immediately began chemotherapy treatments while being told that it was potentially life-saving that she didn’t delay any longer.
She had chemotherapy from February to September 2018, and tests eventually showed that her bone marrow was free of cancer. But later tests showed that her leukemia had returned.
“I was devastated,” she said. “I was re-admitted to hospital where I remained for three months, staying in quarantine in a stem cell room while receiving full body radiation and chemotherapy injections.”
She eventually had a life-saving stem cell transplant, and now is cancer-free.
“On the 15th of this month, I will be three years post-transplant,” she said. “I call this my other birthday, so I will be three. There is one thing I would like to say to anyone going through a cancer journey right now.
“You will have days when you are feeling sick, or perhaps feeling down, try to stay positive. Remember that no matter how rough a day you are having there is always someone worse. Allow yourself time to recuperate and let your body heal… The right attitude and support will see you through all the dark days.”
Leukemia is a blood cancer that develops when the body produces large quantities of abnormal white blood cells. These cells prevent the bone marrow from producing any other type of cell including red blood cells and platelets.
“One cell got really selfish and decided that it needed to take up all the resources of everybody else, and, in doing so, took up space and energy from the rest of the body,” Dr. Nina Shah, a hematologist at University of California San Francisco, explained.
In a more general sense, blood cancer means that your bone marrow is not functioning properly.
“And when your bone marrow doesn’t function correctly, it means that you can have something happen to you like anemia,” she said. “Or you can have low platelets, which makes it possible for you to bleed easily. Or your immune system is not functioning correctly.”
Symptoms of leukemia can vary depending on the type of leukemia. Common signs and symptoms of the disease include:
- Fever or chills
- Persistent fatigue, weakness
- Frequent or severe infections
- Losing weight without trying
- Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
- Easy bleeding or bruising
- Recurrent nosebleeds
- Tiny red spots in your skin (petechiae)
- Excessive sweating, especially at night
- Bone pain or tenderness
These signs and symptoms are not exclusive to leukemia, but if you notice them or any other changes to your health you should see your doctor promptly.
The Importance of Advocating for Your Health
Whether you are currently battling cancer or worried that you might have it, it’s always important to advocate for your health. Cancer is an incredibly serious disease, and you have every right to insist that your doctors investigate any possible signs of cancer.
Or if you simply have no idea what’s causing issues with your body, you should still seek professional help. You never know when speaking up about a seemingly unimportant issue can lead to a very important diagnosis – cancer or otherwise.
“Every appointment you leave as a patient, there should be a plan for what the doc is going to do for you, and if that doesn’t work, what the next plan is,” Dr. Zuri Murell, director of the Cedars-Sinai Colorectal Cancer Center, told SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “And I think that that’s totally fair. And me as a health professional – that’s what I do for all of my patients.”
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, April Knowles explained how she became a breast cancer advocate after her doctor dismissed the lump in her breast as a side effect of her menstrual period.
Unfortunately, that dismissal was a mistake. Knowles was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at age 39. She said the experience taught her the importance of listening to her body and speaking up when something doesn’t feel right.
“I wanted my doctor to like me,” she said. “I think women, especially young women, are really used to being dismissed by their doctors.”
Figuring out whether or not you actually have cancer based on possible symptoms is critical because early detection may help with treatment and outcomes. Seeking multiple opinions is one way to ensure you’re getting the care and attention you need.
One thing to remember is that not all doctors are in agreement. Recommendations for further testing or treatment options can vary, and sometimes it’s essential to talk with multiple medical professionals.