Misdiagnosis of Leukemia
Undiagnosed Chronic Leukemia: The early signs of some forms of chronic leukemia are quite mild, and may remain undiagnosed for some time.
- Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL): This condition often starts with generally vague feelings of unwell, tiredness, fatigue, and so on. Other symptoms may include poor appetite, weight loss, shortness of breath (especially on exertion), swollen lymph nodes, and swollen spleen. There are many other conditions which have this type of vague symptom onset (e.g. lupus, diabetes, thyroid disorders; see causes of vague symptoms), so this condition may be misdiagnosed. This also means the reverse: your concern about tiredness symptoms indicating leukemia may turn out to be one of another dozen or so different diseases when fully diagnosed by your doctor!
- Chronic Myelocytic Leukemia (CML): Symptoms of CML are often similar to those of CLL, with early symptoms being fairly mild or vague symptoms of tiredness, fatigue, etc. However, with CML the spleen is likely to be very enlarged earlier, and additional symptoms of night sweats and easy bruising or bleeding are common. Problems with bruising or bleeding may lead to a bleeding disorder being considered before leukemia is diagnosed.
Acute Leukemia and Anemia: Acute forms of leukemia usually have a more rapid onset of symptoms, and there is less likelihood of a delayed diagnosis. Early symptoms are often those of anemia, because the cancerous over-production of white blood cells crowds out the body’s ability to produce healthy red blood cells. Since anemia has many causes, there is the possibility of being diagnosed with Anemia, but with a different cause of the anemia, with the underlying leukemia only being discovered later. Other symptoms such as poor immunity (from the crowding out of healthy white blood cells), easy bruising or bleeding easily (mimicking bleeding disorders), unexplained fever, bone pain, joint pain and other symptoms, are not always quickly associated with leukemia. Not all cases of acute leukemia have enlarged lymph nodes. Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) may have symptoms of brain involvement such as headaches, vomiting and general irritability.
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