A survey by the charity Blood Cancer UK has found that over half of UK adults cannot name a single symptom of blood cancer, despite it being the third-biggest cause of cancer deaths in the country.
The charity asked participants to list what they believed were common signs of blood cancer. As well as over 56 percent of people being unable to list a single symptom, only 1 percent of the 2,035 adults named fever, and 3 percent naming breathlessness. Awareness of symptoms appears to have gone down since 2018 when the same survey found 52 percent of people were unable to name a symptom of the cancer.
The charity is concerned that with little awareness of symptoms of the disease, new cases could be going undiagnosed after being mistaken by the public for cases of COVID-19.
“Sadly, symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss and night sweats can sometimes be dismissed or downplayed and the result can be devastating," Kate Keightley, head of support services at Blood Cancer UK, said.
"During the height of the pandemic, we saw far fewer people being diagnosed with blood cancer, and one of the reasons for this could be that some of the symptoms of blood cancer are easily mistaken for Covid. It’s extremely worrying that public awareness that these could be signs of blood cancer continues to be so low."
According to the charity, who are trying to publicize signs of the disease to mark Blood Cancer Awareness Month, blood cancer symptoms include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unexplained bruising or bleeding
- Lumps or swellings
- Shortness of breath
- Drenching night sweats
- Infections that are persistent, recurrent, or severe
- Fever (38 °C (100 °F) or above) that is unexplained
- Rash or itchy skin that is unexplained
- Pain in your bone, joints, or abdominal
- Tiredness that doesn’t improve with rest or sleep (fatigue)
- Unusually pale complexion (pallor)
One in 19 people is diagnosed with blood cancer in their lifetime. Like with all cancers, the earlier it is caught, the more chance a patient has of a better outcome.
“Getting diagnosed as early as possible can really help improve the success of treatment for a number of types of blood cancer," Keightley continued.
"We’re concerned that the pandemic has put people off going to their GP and the impact this is having on catching cancer early. If you have symptoms that cannot be explained and are persistent, you should urgently make an appointment with your GP. While it is unlikely to be anything serious, it’s so important to get checked out.”