Top Symptoms of Blood Cancer
Life with blood cancer can vary from person to person. Symptoms, treatment, side effects, progression, remission, and more are unique to each situation. For some, symptoms may be disabling and life altering, while for others, symptoms may be more manageable.
We conducted our 3rd Blood Cancer In America survey to learn more about blood cancer and the way symptoms and side effects impact those living with it. More than 1,900 men and women with blood cancer completed the survey, providing a unique look at the condition.
Most people suffer from fatigue
Fatigue is by far the most common symptom experienced by people with blood cancer. More than 80 percent of survey respondents shared that have felt fatigued as a result of their diagnosis. Nearly 70 percent of respondents also said they experienced fatigue as recently as the past month.
Bowel issues, pain, and neuropathy are other common symptoms
More than half of all survey respondents said they have experienced bowel issues, pain, and neuropathy (tingling in hands and/or feet) because of their blood cancer.
- 54 percent experienced bowel problems such as constipation or diarrhea
- 52 percent experienced aches, pain, or fractures in joints or bones
- 51 percent experienced neuropathy
A variety of other physical, mental, and emotional symptoms
Survey respondents also shared that they have dealt with a wide range of symptoms and treatment side effects impacting their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. These responses show that blood cancer has a far-reaching effect on the people living with it. Symptoms shared include:
- Night sweats (48 percent)
- Hair loss (47 percent)
- Trouble thinking or brain fog (47 percent)
- Skin irritation or changes (44 percent)
- Leg cramps (44 percent)
- Depression or other mood changes (42 percent)
- Nausea or vomiting (40 percent)
- Anemia (low red blood cell count) (40 percent)
- Breathing problems, including shortness of breath (39 percent)
- Excessive bruising (36 percent)
- Low white blood cell count, including neutropenia (36 percent)
- Loss of appetite (36 percent)
- Unexpected weight changes (34 percent)
- Loss of sex drive (32 percent)
- Tiny red spots on the skin (petechiae) (31 percent)
- Chills (30 percent)
Less common symptoms
Beyond the long list of more regularly reported symptoms, some survey respondents noted less common symptoms of their blood cancer. These include:
- Mouth and/or throat sores (29 percent)
- Infections (26 percent)
- High blood pressure (24 percent)
- Increased thirst (24 percent)
- Swelling or fluid retention (22 percent)
- Enlarged lymph nodes (21 percent)
- Fever (20 percent)
- Osteoporosis (weakened bones) (20 percent)
Blood cancer symptoms are persistent
More than 90 percent of all survey respondents shared that they had experienced symptoms or side effects of their blood cancer within the past month. This includes the 70 percent who reported fatigue, but also takes into account other symptoms.
Different physical, mental, and emotional symptoms that affected survey respondents within the past month include:
- Aches, pain, or fractures in joints or bones (40 percent)
- Bowel problems such as constipation or diarrhea (39 percent)
- Neuropathy (36 percent)
- Cognitive impairment/trouble thinking (brain fog) (31 percent)
- Pain (29 percent)
- Depression/mood changes (28)
- Leg cramps (28 percent)
- Night sweats (27 percent)
- Skin irritation and/or changes (dry, itchy skin) (26 percent)
- Breathing problems such as shortness of breath (25 percent)
- Loss of sex drive (libido) (21 percent)
Only 7 percent of participants reported having no symptoms at all in the past month.
These results indicate that although life with blood cancer may be varied, there are some aspects of the condition that might be shared by a large number of individuals. Most are still currently experiencing symptoms as a result of their diagnosis and treatment.
The 3rd Blood Cancer In America survey was conducted online from September 2019 through February 2020. 1,919 people completed the survey.
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