Isaiah, a10 year-old Alaska Native, experienced symptoms that made the school nurse and his mother worry about his condition. He was tired, had frequent headaches and fevers, and experiened weakness and fatigue. However, it was not until he had his blood work done that it was determined that Isaiah was suffering from acute myelocytic leukemia.*


Symptoms mostly associated with acute leukemia


*Fever, chills, and other flu-like symptoms

*Frequent infections

*Swollen or tender lymph nodes, liver, or spleen

*Easily bruising or bleeding

*Swollen or bleeding gums

*Sweating especially at night

*Loss of appetite and/or weight

*Weakness and fatigue

*Tiny red spots called petechiae under the skin

*Bone or joint pain

*Coughing, shortness of breath

*An enlarged, painless testicle

*Difficulty maintaining balance

*Blurred vision

*Seizures, vomiting

*Poor healing of minor cuts






Symptoms mostly associated with chronic leukemia: 


The other type of leukemia is chronic leukemia, which has some symptoms similar to those found with acute leukemia. A large percentage of people with chronic leukemia may suffer from weakness, fatigue, weight loss, fever, bone pain, or a feeling of fullness or pain in the abdomen especially after a small meal.


However, there is a smaller percentage of people who do not have any of these symptoms at all. These people found out they had leukemia after a blood test taken for other reasons.


Figure 1, drawing blood from patient for blood test.

Symptoms of leukemia may be associated with other cancers. Doctors perform specific blood tests to determine if a person has leukemia; blood is drawn from patient (Fig. 1). Classification of the type of leukemia may require tests of bone marrow cells as well. Bone marrow is removed from the back of the patient's hipbone with a needle. Using a microscope, doctors identify blood and bone cells in order to classify leukemia type and subtype. From the identification of cells, doctors can use the information to decide which treatments will work best.





In the case of Isaiah as well as in the cases of many other leukemia sufferers, doctors decided that a bone marrow transplant would be the best hope.*







* This story was adapted from A Common Pain: Native Families Increasingly Feel the Impact of Cancer. By Diana Campbell