MILLIONS of Brits are at risk of deadly blood cancer because they are dismissing leukaemia symptoms.
New research has found that over a third of UK adults had at least one symptom that could have been blood cancer in the last year – but didn’t see a doctor.
Almost 70 per cent believe their symptoms were trivial and would go away themselves, according to the study by cancer charity Bloodwise.
A third of those with symptoms did see a doctor, but less than a quarter went within a month and one in 10 waited at least six months.
More than 40,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with blood cancer every year.
It’s the third biggest cause of cancer deaths in this country – claiming more lives than either breast or prostate cancers.
But catching it early is vital as the sooner treatment starts the more chance we have at fighting it.
‘My itchy skin was cancer’
Georgie Swallow, 27, from Buckinghamshire had repeated infections and severe itching for over a year, which were put down to stress, eczema or a food allergy.
She also had extreme tiredness, for months, but thought that was due to being really busy.
Georgie said: “When I finally got tested, I was adamant it would be glandular fever.
“I was completely stunned when it turned out to be a blood cancer.
“Looking back, I wonder if going to see my GP sooner would have prevented my cancer from spreading and perhaps even avoided my relapse.”
Paul Carless, 51, from Reading, had symptoms for seven months before ending up in A&E and being diagnosed with blood cancer.
He said: “I had a cough and cold for weeks and weeks as well as being exhausted and having night sweats.
“I had no idea these might be warning signs for blood cancer, so my diagnosis came as a massive shock.”
Bloodwise say it’s worried that low public awareness of the symptoms is contributing to delays in diagnosis.
The charity has worked with medical experts to produce a free guide to help people identify and monitor the possible signs.
There are lots of possible signs and symptoms of blood cancers like leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. The most common symptoms include:
- Unexplained bruising or bleeding
- Unexplained weight loss
- Lumps or swellings
- Drenching night sweats
- Persistent, recurrent or severe infections
- Unexplained rash or itchy skin
- Bone or joint pain
- Tiredness that doesn’t improve with rest or sleep
It’s important to remember that not everyone will have the same (or even any) symptoms. Each person is different.
Symptoms are physical or mental changes that come about because of a health condition.
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.”
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