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Symptoms – Night Sweats

Night sweats are a general symptom that may be caused by blood cancer. However, there are several other conditions that can also cause night sweats, and a full evaluation by a healthcare professional is necessary to determine the cause.1,2

Night sweats occur when the body’s temperature is increased, and the body begins to sweat to cool itself. Night sweats are generally characterized by their occurrence during sleep, as well as a drenching sweat that soaks a person’s night clothing and bed sheets.1,2

What causes people with blood cancer to have night sweats?

Night sweats may occur along with fever and chills, two other general symptoms of blood cancer. Some types of cancer can cause fevers by releasing substances that act as toxins in the body.3

What are other causes of night sweats?

Besides some forms of blood cancer, night sweats may also be caused by an infection, changes in hormones, or as a side effect of cancer treatments, like chemotherapy.3

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. General symptoms that blood cancer may cause 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
  • 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”)4,5

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.4

Written by: Emily Downward | Last reviewed: February 2018
  1. What's the connection between night sweats and cancer? Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Available at Accessed 11/1/17.
  2. Does cancer cause night sweats? Medical News Today. Available at Accessed 11/1/17.
  3. Causes of sweating, Cancer Research UK. Available at Accessed 11/1/17.
  4. American Cancer Society. Available at Accessed 11/1/17.
  5. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Available at Accessed 11/1/17.