The main symptoms of blood cancer - and why people don't go to the doctor

Thursday, 5th September 2019, 11:28 am
Updated Thursday, 5th September 2019, 12:32 pm

Blood cancer symptoms don’t have to be cryptic - that’s the message from a national charity as part of a new campaign.

September has been named Blood Cancer Awareness Month and Bloodwise is calling on people to be aware of the signs and symptoms related to the disease.

Over a third of UK adults (39%) had at least one symptom that could have been blood cancer in the last year but didn’t see a doctor, according to a new survey from the organisation.

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Nearly three-quarters of adults (69%) believed their symptoms were either trivial or would go away by themselves, but more than one in ten (11%) felt that a doctor wouldn’t take their concerns seriously.

Graphic by Kim Mogg

Of those with symptoms, a third did see a doctor, but less than a quarter (23%) went within a month and just over one in ten (11%) waited at least six months.

Third biggest cause of cancer deaths

More than 40,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with blood cancer every year. It’s the UK’s third biggest cause of cancer deaths and kills more people than either breast or prostate cancers.

The survey of over 2,000 people was carried out by YouGov, on behalf of Bloodwise, to look at the public’s attitude to symptoms that are red flags for types of blood cancer such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

Blood cancer symptoms include:

Unexplained bruising or bleedingUnexplained weight lossLumps or swellingsDrenching night sweatsPersistent, recurrent or severe infectionsUnexplained rash or itchy skinBone or joint painTiredness that doesn’t improve with rest or sleep

'Symptoms may be dismissed or downplayed'

Gemma Peters, chief executive of Bloodwise, said: “Blood cancer symptoms can be confused with less serious common conditions, which may lead to them being dismissed or downplayed. People often tell us it never crossed their mind that their symptoms were being caused by blood cancer.

“In most cases, thankfully, the cause won’t be anything serious. However, if any of these symptoms are persistent, unexplained or unusual they should be checked out by a doctor.

“It’s not possible to screen for blood cancer so it’s important we raise public awareness of the symptoms. We hope our guide will give people the knowledge and confidence to discuss any concerns with their doctor so they can be accurately and promptly diagnosed.”

Survey respondents were also asked which symptom would most likely trigger them to visit a doctor. Lumps or swellings in the neck, head, groin or stomach would send over eight out of ten (83%) people to get checked out and seven out of ten (70%) would go for repeated infections.

While at the other end of the scale only around four out of 10 would seek medical help for drenching night sweats (35%) or unexplained itchy skin (28%).