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What are the early stages of leukemia?

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Quick Answer

The symptoms of early-stage leukemia may be silent until the disease is fairly advanced, according to NIHSeniorHealth. Leukemia can be either chronic, which develops gradually, or acute.

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Full Answer

Chronic leukemia is sometimes found during a regular medical checkup, says NIHSeniorHealth, and when symptoms appear, they are milder than those of acute leukemia.

When symptoms of acute leukemia do appear, they include swollen lymph nodes in the groin, under the arm and in the neck, says WebMD. Other symptoms are bruising, frequent or unexplained bleeding from mucus membranes, and heavy menstrual periods. The person may have recurrent fevers, night sweats, bone pain, unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite, and fatigue as well as swelling and pain on the left side of the abdomen. These symptoms appear quickly in acute leukemia. However, they may not present in chronic leukemia until years after the patient is diagnosed.

The leukemia occurs because too many white blood cells overwhelm the red blood cells and platelets, claims NIHSeniorHealth. Because the white blood cells are abnormal, they do not do the job of fighting infection. The dearth of red blood cells causes anemia and its attendant fatigue, and the lack of platelets causes easy bruising and bleeding. Pain on the left side of the abdomen is due to an enlarged spleen.

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