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Over Half Of Adults Can't Name A Single Symptom Of Blood Cancer

This is concerning.

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

James is a published author with four pop-history and science books to his name. He specializes in history, strange science, and anything out of the ordinary.

Senior Staff Writer

A child in hospital holding hands with an adult.

Early diagnosis is key.

Image credit: Beenicebeelove/

A survey by the charity Blood Cancer UK 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 55 percent of people being unable to list a single symptom, 25 percent said that it was unlikely or extremely unlikely they would see a doctor if they noticed any of the main symptoms of it.


In a survey from the previous year, participants were asked to name symptoms of the disease. Only 1 percent of the 2,035 adults named fever, with 3 percent naming breathlessness. Awareness of symptoms appears to have gone down slightly 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 until it progresses, or be mistaken for other illnesses.

"Sadly, symptoms such as night sweats and unexplained tiredness, weight loss and bruising can sometimes be dismissed or downplayed, with devastating results," Kate Keightley, head of support services at Blood Cancer UK, said in a press release in August 2022. 

"We fear many people might also be confusing breathlessness, a fever and tiredness with COVID-19 and cases are being left undiagnosed. At the moment, we know that too many people are being diagnosed late, which often reduces the chance of survival, so it is so vital people get symptoms checked out as soon as possible."


"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."

According to the charity, 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 abdomen
  • Tiredness that doesn’t improve with rest or sleep (fatigue)
  • Unusually pale complexion (pallor)

The team points out that symptoms can look different on different skin tones. On non-white skin, bruising can be more difficult to see, while rashes can show up as patches darker than the skin around them. Pallor can more readily be noticed by looking at your palms, lips, gums, tongue, or nail beds, or by pulling down the lower eyelids.

"The inside is normally dark pink or red, but if it’s pale pink or white," they explain, "it’s a sign of 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.

An earlier version of this article was published in August 2021.


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