In England, there is no national screening programme for leukaemia. Yet diagnosing leukaemia in its earliest stages can improve the outcome for patients. This means that it’s important to get tested as soon as possible if you suspect you may have leukaemia.
The most common symptoms of leukaemia are fatigue, fever or night sweats, shortness of breath, bruising or bleeding, bone or joint pain, and repeated infections. A physical exam, blood test and bone marrow biopsy are the first-line tests to diagnose leukaemia.
Leukaemia is a cancer of your white blood cells that are made in a spongy tissue found inside some of your bones, called the bone marrow. Leukaemia nearly always begins in the bone marrow and it usually spreads to your blood. It can also be found in other tissues including your lymph nodes and spleen.
If you have leukaemia, your body produces too many immature white blood cells. These abnormal blood cells don’t die when they get old as your healthy blood cells do. This results in a build-up of abnormal blood cells in your bone marrow that stop your body from producing normal blood cells, including platelets and red blood cells that are essential for the immune and blood system.
The type of leukaemia is based on:
The 4 main types of leukaemia are:
Diagnostic tests are used to confirm leukaemia if you have signs and symptoms of leukaemia or you have chronic leukaemia that is detected during blood tests carried out for another reason.
Leukaemia can be diagnosed using the following tests:
Other tests that may be used to diagnose leukaemia
Leukaemia symptoms vary depending on the type of leukaemia you have. Chronic leukaemia develops slowly with many people having no symptoms in the early stages. Often chronic leukaemia is discovered by chance after a routine blood test. Acute leukaemia progresses quickly and is more likely to cause symptoms that often cause people to feel ill quite quickly.
Symptoms can vary from person to person. You may get some but not necessarily all of the typical symptoms of leukaemia. Symptoms can be grouped by the cells that are being affected.
Symptoms related to a low number of red blood cells, called anaemia:
Symptoms related to a low number of white blood cells:
Symptoms related to a low number of platelets are related to unusual bleeding:
Other leukaemia symptoms may include:
You should contact your GP if you're worried about any symptoms that you’re experiencing.
Currently, there are no national screening tests for leukaemia that are recommended for regularly testing the general population. This is because there is no screening test that has been proven to be reliable enough to detect leukaemia in its earliest stages before symptoms develop.
This means that it’s important to be aware of the possible symptoms of leukaemia and to visit your doctor if you have any concerns. Your doctor will then be able to investigate your symptoms.
At Ramsay, we have a multidisciplinary team of leukaemia experts who use the latest tools and technologies to find out if patients have leukaemia. If a leukaemia diagnosis is made, they will develop a treatment plan tailored to the specific needs of the patient.
There is no national screening programme for any type of leukaemia. This is partly because Leukaemia generally is not a common condition.
If you have symptoms of leukaemia or you think that you are at higher-than-average risk of leukaemia, you should speak with your doctor.
At Ramsay, we offer convenient and timely appointments for patients who are worried about having leukaemia. Patients showing leukaemia symptoms or who are at higher risk of leukaemia can see one of our experienced consultant haematologists. Your haematologist will offer a physical exam. discuss your medical and family history and request any required diagnostic tests.
It’s important to speak to an expert when you are worried about lympoma cancer symptoms, our conveniently located Ramsay hospitals offer tests to diagnose leukamia without waiting with oncology experts.