Leukemia, also known as blood cancer is a bit different from other types of cancer, and it may become a bit difficult to understand at first. Instead of having a tumor in one organ growing larger and larger, and then spreading to other tissues, in leukemia cancer starts in the stem cells that will ultimately become blood cells. These stem cells may grow into various types of blood cells, and, depending on which group is taken, we can have either lymphocytic leukemia or myelogenous leukemia. The former affects our circulating lymphocytes or white blood cells, and the latter affects the myeloid stem cells, which give rise to red blood cells, platelets, and other immune cells in the blood.
Since there are various types of leukemia, there will be various signs and symptoms for each one of them. The prognosis and how the disease behaves over time would also change accordingly. You can also have either acute leukemias that develop within a few days or chronic leukemias which are slowly developed over a few months or years.
The most important signs and symptoms you will find in leukemia are as follows:
One of the most common symptoms in leukemia is having chronic fatigue, which translates into feeling worn out and tired, even after waking up after a good night’s sleep. Having no energy to get up from the bed and unusual tiredness should be a warning sign that something is not going as it should. Patients would also describe how their day-to-day activities are deeply influenced by this debilitating symptom. They feel physically and mentally overwhelmed and drained, and this mental state may influence their work or study.
There are plenty of reasons why patients with leukemia experience fatigue. The blood carries nutrients and oxygen to the rest of the body, and blood cancer affects the normal function of the blood. One of the most common alterations is anemia, a reduction in the functioning red blood cells with a decrease in oxygen delivery to the tissues. Less oxygen would turn into lower energy levels available in the cells, which explains chronic fatigue.
Another source of fatigue in leukemia patients comes from the emotional stress, anxiety and depression associated with the diagnosis of the disease. It may also result from poor sleep, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.