Blood cancer can mean that you don’t have the right balance of different types of blood cell. You might have too many of one type of cell and / or not enough of another. This list explains what causes the most common symptoms of blood cancers.
Anaemia (may lead to extreme tiredness / fatigue)
Caused by low levels of oxygen-carrying red blood cells (haemoglobin)
Anaemia can cause extreme and persistent tiredness (fatigue), breathlessness even when you’re resting, chest pain, dizziness, and paleness.
Bruising and bleeding
Caused by a low level of blood-clotting cells (platelets)
This can vary from extreme bruising to tiny pin-sized red spots in your skin (petechiae) or a purple skin rash (purpura). It can also cause bleeding from your nose, gums, wounds, heavy periods, or blood in your poo. In very rare cases there may be a bleed into the brain which causes stroke-like symptoms.
Infections / high temperature (fever)
Caused by a low level of infection-fighting white blood cells (neutrophils)
You may get repeated infections, or have a high temperature even if there aren’t any other obvious signs of infection. Infections can cause flu-like symptoms like coughing or a sore throat.
Lumps and swellings
Caused by abnormal white blood cells building up in your lymph glands.
You’re most likely to notice these in your neck, armpit or groin. They’re usually painless, although some people find they ache. If there are lumps or swellings further inside your body, and they press on organs such as your lungs, this can cause pain, discomfort and / or breathlessness.
Caused by lytic lesions in your bones
Myeloma can cause pain in any major bones such as back, ribs or hips.
Night sweats (drenching)
Some people with lymphoma have drenching night sweats but we don’t know yet what causes this.
Some people with blood cancer experience itching but we don’t know yet what causes this.
Weight loss (unexplained)
Caused by dividing cells that use up a lot of energy (increasing your metabolism)
Significant weight loss can be a sign of blood cancer. If you lose more than 5% of your weight without trying in a month or 10% over 6 months, see your doctor.
Abdominal (stomach area) problems
Caused by abnormal blood cells building up in your spleen
You may feel full after only eating small amounts, have discomfort under your ribs on the left side, have bloating or swelling, or occasionally pain.
Symptoms of acute blood cancer
Caused by a very high level of white blood cells
Some types of blood cancer such as acute myeloid leukaemia develop very quickly and make you very unwell very quickly. This is known as leukostasis or blast crisis. Symptoms may include vomiting, confusion, loss of muscle control, and seizures. Anyone with these symptoms needs medical attention immediately.