Signs and symptoms
If you’re diagnosed with CML, there are some symptoms you might notice. It’s important to remember that not everyone will get all, or even any, of these symptoms.
If you’re diagnosed with CML, there are some symptoms you might notice before your diagnosis. It’s important to remember that not everyone will get all, or even any, of these symptoms. Each person is different, and will have a different experience.
Some people won’t be aware of any symptoms at all and are diagnosed by chance after routine blood tests, or blood tests you were having for something else.
About 90% of people with CML are diagnosed during the chronic phase of the disease and most will be able to stay in this phase for life. This section talks about the symptoms associated with each of the three phases.
Symptoms in the chronic phase
Symptoms in this phase are usually quite vague, and appear and develop very slowly. Remember that many of these symptoms are very common, and are often caused by other things. They include:
- fatigue, or tiredness – this is sometimes caused by anaemia
- loss of appetite
- unexplained weight loss
- increased sweating, particularly at night
- abdominal bloating, swelling and occasionally pain (if your spleen is enlarged)
- blurred vision
- unusual or excessive bleeding – for example from your gums or nose.
Most patients with chronic phase CML will have an enlarged spleen, which may cause abdominal discomfort (tenderness around the stomach) and a feeling of fullness when you eat. Rarely, the liver might be enlarged at the time of diagnosis.
Symptoms in the accelerated phase
If you’re in the accelerated stage, your symptoms don’t normally change much from the chronic stage. Progression to this stage is measured by looking at changes in your blood, bone marrow and blast count. This stage may sometimes indicate a progression to the more aggressive blast stage. The change in symptoms you might notice from chronic stage is an increase in bone pain, which may be caused by leukaemia cells building up in your bone marrow.
Symptoms in the blast stage
It’s rare for people to be diagnosed at the blast phase, sometimes known as ‘blast crisis’. It’s also rare, with current treatments, for people to progress from the chronic to blast phase, but both of these things can happen. People in the blast phase often have noticeable extra symptoms. These may include:
- weight loss
- bone pain
- tiredness or fatigue
- bruising more easily than normal
- unusual bleeding, for example from your gums or nose
- repeated infections
- painful haemorrhages
- swollen lymph nodes
- blast cells may be present in the fluid which surrounds the brain and spinal cord, and this can cause severe headaches.
Watch Professor Jane Apperley, Consultant Haematologist at Hammersmith Hospital, talk about the symptoms of CML.