Are frequent infections a symptom of leukaemia?
Frequent infections can be a sign of leukaemia. However, patients can often mistake their symptoms to be those of the flu or other infections, and therefore initially dismiss them as harmless. This is a major problem when attempting to diagnose leukaemia at an earlier stage.
20% leukaemia patients will experience frequent or repeated infections as a symptom prior to their diagnosis. In leukaemia, recurrent infections can occur because your body isn’t producing enough white blood cells to keep your immune system working properly. This means that the you are unable to rapidly destroy any harmful viruses, bacteria or fungi that have made their way into the body.
This is a big problem when attempting to diagnose leukaemia at an earlier stage, as leukaemia patients and even GPs will often mistake leukaemia symptoms to be those of the flu or other infections. Technically speaking, they are not always wrong, as the symptoms can be the result of the infection itself, however, there are certain characteristics such as the duration of illness, your tendency to pick up infections and the concurrence with other symptoms of leukaemia that can to distinguish the difference between everyday infections and leukaemia. Read on to gain a better understanding of how certain signs of infection may help you to spot leukaemia sooner.
Which common illnesses should I look out for?
Infections can develop anywhere in the body, such as the skin, the mouth, the lungs, the urinary tract or the genitals and they can manifest in a number of different ways. Nearly always they are harmless and will clear within a few weeks. However, there are some instances where it is worth contacting your GP to run further checks. It is important to note that the following symptoms are likely to be caused by a number of conditions other than leukaemia. Nevertheless, it is still important to consult with a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis.
Symptoms that some leukaemia patients have experienced include the following
Sweating or chills
Redness, swelling or pain around a wound
If you are experiencing repeated infections that don't go away, contact your GP and ask for a blood test.
Screenshot this 👇
Screenshot the above graphic and take it to your GP to show them that repeated infections are a symptom of leukaemia.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines. NG12 states that you are required to have an urgent blood test (within 48 hours) if you are presenting with any of the leukaemia symptoms including repeated infections.
Alternatively, you can screenshot the above graphic and share it on social media to help raise awareness of the symptoms. Early diagnosis saves lives.
When should I be concerned?
It can be very difficult to tell if you are picking up infections at an abnormally high rate which implies you have a weakened immune system. Many healthy individuals with perfectly functioning immune systems can develop multiple viral chest infections each year.
Regardless of your profession or lifestyle, if you feel like you are having more infections than you are used to, visit your GP and ask for a blood test to rule out any underlying problem.