Symptoms - Fever

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

Blood cancers can cause general symptoms (those which may also be caused by other conditions), and one of the general symptoms that some people with blood cancer experience is a fever. A fever is an increase in the body's temperature, and fevers may be accompanied by chills or sweats and can lead to fatigue, which is another general symptom of blood cancers.1,2

Does blood cancer cause fevers?

Some types of cancer may cause fevers by releasing substances that act as toxins in the body.3 While fever is generally the body's response to an illness or infection, fevers from blood cancer tend to be unexplained. That is, there is no obvious sign or reason for the fever. Also, fevers usually go away after a few days, while fevers with blood cancer may take longer, or possibly require treatment, to go away.1,2

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Other symptoms

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. These symptoms can include:

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
  • 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")1,4

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.

How is blood cancer diagnosed?

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