What are the signs of leukemia?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 18, 2016
Loving husband asked...

I just read the article "How can we prevent bruising due to low platelets" and I have questions. My wife was diagnosed with leukemia in April,2009 and passed away in August,2009. Three years or so before the leukemia diagnosis, she was having health issues and bruised very easily. It was so bad that she would wake up in the morning with new bruises and many of them were very deep and very discolored. The doctor diagnosed her with something he called "ITP" and never really treated it extensively or pursued any other possible diagnosis. My questions are : 1. Is "ITP" a fancy way of saying that her platelets were low? 2. could the leukemia have been beginning to grow in her blood because of this low platelet count from the on set of the bruising issue? 3. If the doctor would have been more aggressive in exploring the causes of her bruising, should the leukemia have been able to be diagnosed much earlier then it was thus possibly allowing her to be with us today? It obviously was working in her body much longer then anyone realized. This article has put many doubts into my mind as to the question of whether she was treated properly and in a timely manner for the leukemia. Please respond.

Expert Answers

Andrew Putnam, M.D. is a Palliative Care physician at Smilow Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University.

1) yes and no. In ITP the T stands for thrombocytopenia which means low platelets. I stands for idiopathic meaning "of uncertain cause" and purpura means wide spread bruising. So ITP means low platelets but also other information as well.
2) Very unlikely because leukemia means that there would be altered numbers of and altered maturity of white blood cells. With increased vigilance of the platelets with ITP, they would have spotted the leukemia were it evident at the time. 3) I think that if there had been altered white blood cells at the time of the ITP, the doctors would have seen this and looked deeper, not calling it idiopathic. Many of the signs of leukemia would have pointed in different directions had they existed at the time of the ITP. My belief is that the doctors would have seen those. Sometimes leukemia develops very quickly.

Community Answers

Horizonbts answered...

I totally disagree with Andrew because I have been through something that sounds very similar to what your wife experienced. I was diagnosed when living in TN with ITP and had the same deep bruising, bleeding gums, low platelet counts below 10,000 and normal is 120,000 to 400,000. Rounds of high doses of prednisone with weight gain, spleenectomy, and with only limited results. After a divorce and coming back home to Indiana I got a good hematologist whom I wish I would have had in TN. He diagnosed me with CLL as he did find the abnormal white counts that the Doctors didn't find in TN and run a dna positive test for ITP and found that I indeed had both. Since treatments with rituxan and lots of advice from him and nurses I feel like a new person and live a pretty normal life-as I have more energy and feel so much better-no low platelet counts and much more energy. I now am in a wait and watch mode with the CLL, but things are holding good and visits are much less frequent to my Doctors. Wonder how far along and much better off I would have been if I would have had my current hematolgist several years prior. I worship the ground he walks on as I feel the results of his knowledge and expertise.