Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): Symptoms & Signs, Diagnosis & Tests

Symptoms & Signs

A person with ALL is more likely to bleed and have infections because there are fewer normal blood cells and platelets. Life-threatening symptoms may develop.

* Bone and joint pain or tenderness
* Easy bruising and bleeding (bleeding gums, skin bleeding, nosebleeds, menstrual irregularities)
* Feeling weak or tired
* Fever
* Loss of appetite and weight loss
* Paleness
* Pain or feeling of fullness below the ribs
* Pinpoint red spots on the skin (petechiae)
* Swollen glands (lymphadenopathy) in the neck, under arms, and groin
* Night sweats

Note: These symptoms can occur with other conditions. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific symptoms.

Diagnosis & Tests

A physical exam may reveal the following:

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* Bruising
* Enlarged liver, lymph nodes, and spleen
* Signs of bleeding (petechiae, purpura)

Blood tests may show the following:

* Abnormal white blood cell (WBC) count
* Low red blood cell count (anemia)
* Low platelet count (thrombocytopenia)

A bone marrow aspiration will show abnormal levels of certain cells. The bone marrow is usually taken from the back of one of the hip bones, but can be taken from other bones. Tests are done on the bone marrow cells to identify the type of leukemia.

A lumbar puncture or spinal tap is usually done to both detect if leukemia cells are in the spinal fluid and to give chemotherapy to prevent spread to the spinal fluid.

Doctors look for chromosome changes in the cells of some leukemias. This helps aid in diagnosis and prognosis. Leukemias with certain types of chromosome changes have a poor outlook, while those with other types of genes can have a very good outlook. This may determine what kind of therapy is used to treat the ALL.

Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): Overview, Causes

Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): Symptoms & Signs, Diagnosis & Tests

Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) : Treatment


Review Date : 3/2/2010
Reviewed By : David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc., and Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital.
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