At the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre we know that a cancer diagnosis is a life changing event. We also know that every cancer is different, just like every person is different. We are dedicated to supporting and guiding you throughout your care. On this page you can learn about symptoms of leukaemia and the potential treatment pathway.

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What is leukaemia?

Normal healthy white blood cells are cells made in the bone marrow, which is the spongy tissue inside bones. They circulate in the blood and help protect the body from infection by foreign substances and disease. Leukaemia is abnormal and uncontrolled growth of immature white blood cells in the bone marrow, which then appear in the blood stream. 'Leuk' means white and 'aemia' means blood, which is why it is called leukaemia. These abnormal cells take up space in the bone marrow, which means the marrow can't make enough normal blood cells.

Types of leukaemia

Leukaemia can be either acute or chronic and begin in different types of white blood cells; either myeloid cells or lymphoid cells. There are specific treatments for each of these various forms of leukaemia.

If you have any of the following symptoms please see your doctor. These symptoms may also occur for ailments other than cancer. Your doctor will advise if you need tests and where you should go to have these tests. This information should not be used to replace medical advice.

Acute leukaemias

Acute leukaemias, both acute lymphocytic (ALL) and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) generally appear suddenly with intense symptoms that require rapid medical attention and treatment.


  • Bruising and bleeding easily
  • Frequent and/or repeated infections
  • Weakness or tiredness

  • Fever 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Bone pain

What are the symptoms of chronic leukaemia?

Chronic leukaemias, such as chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) and chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) generally develop more slowly and have less severe symptoms. It can develop over months or even years. Chronic leukaemia is often diagnosed from blood tests as part of a routine check-up in patients who have no symptoms. However, symptoms can include:


  • Easy bleeding and bruising
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Enlarged lymph glands, spleen or liver

Can I be treated at the ONJ Centre?

Once you have been diagnosed with cancer, your doctor or specialist can make a referral to the ONJ Centre for your cancer treatment. You can ask to be referred here, regardless of your insurance status or the stage of your treatment. The ONJ Centre is part of Austin Health, a leading Australian public hospital.

how to get a referral