Symptoms - Feeling Full

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2018

Some people with blood cancer may experience a sensation of fullness in the belly as a symptom of their cancer. Fullness in the abdomen or belly is common in leukemia and lymphoma, and it may cause a person to not eat as much or have a decreased appetite.1

Enlarged spleen and feeling full

A feeling of stomach fullness in blood cancers may be caused by a swelling of the spleen. The spleen is located next to the stomach. The spleen is part of the lymphatic system, and its functions are to filter out old or damaged blood cells, store red blood cells and platelets, and to prevent infection by producing white blood cells. Excess blood cells or cancerous blood cells can potentially clog the spleen and cause it to enlarge. When the spleen becomes enlarged, it can push on the nearby stomach, causing a sensation of fullness.2

Other symptoms of blood cancer

Blood cancers can cause several general symptoms. Because these general symptoms may be caused by blood cancer or many other conditions, it's important to have these or other symptoms evaluated by a healthcare professional to get a proper diagnosis. Other general symptoms of blood cancer can include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Aches in the arms, legs, or joints1,3

The cancerous cells in blood cancer can crowd out healthy blood cells, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. When the healthy blood cells are negatively impacted, blood cancers can cause additional symptoms, such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
  • Headache
  • Repeated infections, or infections that won't go away
  • Fevers, especially without an obvious cause
  • Frequent bruises, especially without a clear reason
  • Easily bleeding, such as from cuts, from the gums, or frequent nose bleeds
  • Small, pinhead-sized red spots on the skin (called "petechiae")1,3

It's important to remember that not everyone with blood cancer experiences all these symptoms. There are many different types of blood cancer, each with its own unique list of symptoms, and each individual has a unique experience and combination of symptoms.

Diagnosing blood cancer

To diagnose blood cancer, doctors may use several tests, including a physical exam, medical history, blood tests (like a complete blood count, blood chemistry, blood smear, and blood clotting tests), bone marrow aspiration and biopsy, lymph node biopsy, lumbar puncture, and imaging tests (like a chest x-ray, computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or ultrasound). Some of these tests are also used to rule out other conditions.1

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