Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow cells and it can come with a wide range of symptoms. These symptoms might be subtle and slow at first — and include things like fatigue, headaches, unintentional weight loss, abnormal bleeding and bruising, and frequent infections. Although leukemia can’t be diagnosed solely on these symptoms, being aware of them is important. 1
Leukemia is a type of cancer that typically affects the cells in the bone marrow. This then causes abnormalities white blood cell and red blood cell production.
These are the four main types of leukemia:
- Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
- Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
One of the most common symptoms to look for in both children and adults is bone and joint pain.
If you’re wondering exactly what does leukemia bone pain feel like, read on. Our guide will detail this and more from the experts at ITC.
Regular Bone Pain Versus Leukemia Bone Pain
Bone pain can come from a variety of things. As opposed to muscle and joint pain, different types of bone pain tend to linger even when you aren’t moving around or putting pressure on the bone. 3
Regular Bone Pain
Before jumping to the conclusion that your bone pain might be leukemia bone pain, it’s good to note other common types of bone pain and their related symptoms.
Infection can lead to bone pain, redness, swelling, and warmth at the infection site. It can also cause a decreased range of motion in the infected area as well as nausea and lack of appetite.
If someone has a mineral deficiency, this can lead to muscle and tissue pain. It can also cause disturbances in your sleep cycle, cramps, and feelings of fatigue and weakness.
Injuries to the bone lead to swelling, visible breaks, and a grinding noise at the time of injury.
Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become brittle and weak. It leads to back pain and poor posture and eventually, a loss of height over time.
Disrupted Blood Supply (to the bones)
A loss of blood supply to the bones can be caused for many reasons — medical procedures, medicine, injury, kidney disease, gout, and more. When this happens, there’s a loss of joint pain and function and a feeling of weakness.
During pregnancy, a woman might experience pain in the pelvic bone. This is referred to as pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain (PPGP) and includes stiffness and pain in the pubic bone and pelvic joints.
Leukemia Bone Pain
When discussing what does bone pain feel like in leukemia, we tend to remind patients and readers that bone pain is the most common in areas where there is a large amount of bone marrow. With leukemia, patients often experience pain in the hips, the legs, and the breastbone. 1,3
Leukemia Bone Pain Symptoms
When the bone marrow becomes overcrowded with cancer cells, the joint and bone pain kicks in. Sometimes, the leukemia cells may form a mass near the nerves of the spinal cord or the joints. With acute lymphoblastic leukemia, in particular, bone pain occurs in roughly 25 percent of patients at the onset of disease. It’s less common acute myeloid leukemia.
When pain occurs, look for symptoms in the long bones of the arms and legs. You might also feel it in the ribs and sternum of the rib cage. After bone pain begins, you may also feel joint pain and swelling of large joints — like the shoulders and hips. 5
Depending on the area, when asked what does leukemia pain feel like in the bone, many patients mention a sharp pain or a constant dull ache. Some may think this is due to physical activity or routine yard work. After a few days, the swelling told them otherwise.
Bone Pain in Childhood Leukemia
Many patients wonder what does leukemia bone pain feel like in children. There are both chronic leukemia and acute leukemia. In chronic leukemia, the symptoms develop slowly as with acute, the symptoms appear fast. Some parents disregard leukemia bone pain as typical growing pains, as children might be complaining about an ache in their leg that doesn’t go away or a pain in their arm.
According to the National Cancer Institute, roughly 4,000 children around the United States are affected each year by acute or chronic leukemia. And for children under the age of 15, childhood leukemia is the most common type of cancer.
In addition to leukemia symptoms like extreme fatigue, lack of appetite, and skin rashes, bone pain is another symptom to be aware of in kids. This is because as leukemia develops, abnormal cells gather inside the joints or close to the surface of bones. When they do, the joints become sore and achy. 2
Bone pain is one of the most common symptoms to develop in childhood leukemia and occurs in almost 60% of children with acute leukemia. Children may start to complain about an aching back or pain in the legs. A crucial sign to look for is a child who is limping, especially if the child is unable to talk. 4
When To Seek Medical Treatment
If you or your child are complaining constantly about aching bones or limping without any known injury, it’s important to seek help from a medical professional. When you experience pain that doesn’t go away or seems to get worse over time, reach out to your doctor.
In most cases, a doctor will ask a series of questions about your bone pain. They’ll want to know when it started and where it’s located. They’ll also ask whether or not it’s getting worse and if you, or your child, have any accompanying symptoms.
In adults, remember that bone pain can often be mistaken for arthritis — and in children, it’s easy for doctors to chalk it up to growing pains. Patients often want to know how can you test for leukemia at home, and our best advice is to familiarize yourself with the common leukemia symptoms.
If you’re experiencing any of the other symptoms below, it’s a good idea to push for a blood test.
- Easy bruising and bleeding, including recurring nosebleeds
- Persistent fatigue
- Frequent or severe infections
- Fever and chills
- Dramatic weight loss
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Enlarged liver or spleen
- Pain or tenderness in the bones
- Profuse sweating, especially at night
- Petechiae, a condition that disseminates tiny red splotches on your skin (patients often ask what do leukemia spots look like — so be aware that this condition can strongly resemble a rash in both kids and adults)
How Is Leukemia Diagnosed?
A leukemia diagnosis typically happens by analyzing a patient’s blood sample. A bone marrow biopsy, in which a core of bone is removed with a long-needled and analyzed under microscopy, is usually also done. This helps add information about your particular type of leukemia that leads to a proper diagnosis and the right treatment options. 6
Bone Pain After Diagnosis
If you’ve been diagnosed with bone cancer, and begin to experience bone pain afterward, don’t panic. Just because you have a new bone pain does not mean the cancer is progressing or getting worse. This can be caused by the treatment itself; chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery all can come with possible side effects of bone pain. According to leukemiacare.org, painful bones and joints are actually more likely to be reported after diagnosis (33%) than before diagnosis (20%). A good rule of thumb to tell the difference is that bone pain related to treatment is typically widespread and can be felt in multiple areas of your body. Leukemia pain, however, is more likely to be isolated to particular parts of the body. If you are experiencing bone pain, talk to your doctor about a leukemia diet that may help to alleviate your pain. He or she might suggest different vegetables and fruits, healthy bacterias, and eating routines that will aid in your recovery. 4
If you or your loved one are experiencing bone pain, this isn’t something that should be ignored. Bone pain in both children and adults can occur for many reasons — and describing exactly what does leukemia bone pain feel like can be difficult for patients.
Remember to look for additional symptoms, like bruising, recurring infection, or lack of appetite. Staying in tune with your body and knowing when something isn’t quite right is the first step to healing.
If you have questions about anything, like what causes leukemia or what are the symptoms of end stage leukemia, feel free to reach out to the team at Immunity Therapy Center today. Treating leukemia can be a complex battle, which is why we offer holistic targeted therapy options. Our targeted therapy methods provide alternative options to invasive cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Each treatment plan is unique the patient and their needs.
We offer a wide range of natural therapies that are customized to your personal health, medical history, and cancer progression. Please contact us today to schedule your free consultation.
From all of us at ITC, we’re wishing you a bright and beautiful day ahead.
- Raymaakers, Karen. “Symptoms of Leukemia.” verywellhealth.com, November 1, 2019, https://www.verywellhealth.com/leukemia-signs-and-symptoms-2252435. Accessed May 29, 2020.
- Cadman, Bethany. “What Are the Early Symptoms of Leukemia in Children?” medicalnewstoday.com, July 6, 2018, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322389#common-symptoms. Accessed May 29, 2020.
- Morrison, William. “Bone Pain.” healthline.com, October 27, 2016, https://www.healthline.com/health/bone-pain#symptoms. Accessed May 29, 2020.
- “Bone and Joint Pain.” leukemiacare.org, (no publish date), https://www.leukaemiacare.org.uk/support-and-information/latest-from-leukaemia-care/blog/bone-and-joint-pain-part-1/. Accessed May 29, 2020.
- “Disease and Treatment Related Pain.” lls.org, (no publish date), https://www.lls.org/treatment/managing-side-effects/pain/disease-and-treatment-related-pain. Accessed May 29, 2020.
- “Diagnosing Leukemia.” yalemedicine.org, (no publish date), https://www.yalemedicine.org/conditions/leukemia-diagnosis/. Accessed May 29, 2020.
At Immunity Therapy Center, our goal is to provide objective, updated, and research-based information on all health-related topics. This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by Dr. Carlos Bautista, a Board Certified Medical Doctor at Immunity Therapy Center. All information published on the site must undergo an extensive review process to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources with all references hyperlinked for the reader's visibility.