Page Menu

How Does Leukemia Affect the Body?

woman feeling tired from leukemia

Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the body’s blood-forming cells in the bone marrow and lymphatic system. It can take one of several forms and spread at different rates, but most types of leukemia disrupt the production of healthy white blood cells that are designed to multiply, fight infections and die off. In a person with leukemia, these cells reproduce abnormally and collect in the blood stream, eventually crowding out healthy cells and causing symptoms.

What are the symptoms of leukemia?

The symptoms of leukemia will vary according to its type and other factors like the age and overall health of the individual. Some common symptoms include:

  • Weakness and fatigue
  • A sensation of pain deep within the bones
  • Easy bruising
  • Fever and frequent infections
  • Tenderness below the left ribcage due to an enlarged spleen
  • A swollen belly or abdominal discomfort
  • Swollen lymph nodes around the neck, underarms or groin area
  • Tiny red or purple spots underneath the skin (petechiae)
  • Weight loss and reduced appetite

Leukemia usually does not cause noticeable symptoms in its early stages. In many cases, people don’t realize there is a problem until they receive routine bloodwork or seek medical care for an unrelated issue. Even though the above symptoms are more likely to be caused by a benign (noncancerous) condition, be sure to promptly speak with a physician if any of them occur.

Leukemia treatment and supportive care at Moffitt 

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we know that leukemia affects patients on more than just a clinical level. Living with cancer can take an emotional toll and present unique challenges that can be difficult to overcome without professional help. That’s why we ensure that patients in our Malignant Hematology Program benefit from the expertise of world-class leukemia specialists as well as supportive care professionals like dietitians, counselors, social workers and pain management physicians. Working together, our experts provide individualized and highly specialized care in one convenient location.

Medically reviewed by David Sallman, MD Malignant Hematology

Contact Moffitt at 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online if you would like to receive a second opinion or discuss your treatment options with an oncologist in our leukemia program. A referral is not required to visit Moffitt.