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More than half of adults unable to name common signs of blood cancer

Written by on 31/08/2021

More than half of British adults cannot identify any symptom of blood cancer, a survey has suggested, as a charity warned some of the signs could be mistaken for COVID-19.

The percentage of people saying they did not know any symptoms of the third biggest cancer killer in the UK has risen by 4% since a similar survey in 2018.

Conducted by Blood Cancer UK, the poll found 56% of people could not name any signs – up from 52% of respondents asked three years ago.

The charity said the lack of public awareness surrounding the condition is “extremely worrying”.

The findings, which come a day ahead of the beginning of Blood Cancer Awareness Month, showed just 1% of people recently polled identified having a fever as a sign of the disease.

Breathlessness was a symptom noted by just 3%, prompting fears from the charity that this sign, along with a fever and tiredness, could lead to many cases being confused with COVID-19 and left undiagnosed.

Awareness of other symptoms has stayed roughly the same since 2018.

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Just under a third (30%) of people knew that fatigue was a common sign, while 11% correctly identified bruising and 10% noted weight loss.

Only one in 20 respondents identified pain, 2% cited repeated infections, and lumps and night sweats were pointed out by 1%.

The charity says one in 19 people will be diagnosed with blood cancer, which includes leukaemia, lymphoma, and myeloma, at some point in their lives, and they kill more people every year in the UK than either breast or prostate cancer.

Jemma Thrower, a 25-year-old Worthing mum began getting hip pain a few months into her pregnancy in 2019, with it initially believed to be sciatica.

Worthing mum Jemma Thrower, 25, was diagnosed with blood cancer
Image: Worthing mum Jemma Thrower, 25, was diagnosed with blood cancer

The pain grew worse until she was sent for a blood test in March this year and after a week in hospital, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin Lymphoma.

Now with a baby daughter, she is facing an eight-month course of chemotherapy.

She said: “Hearing the word cancer, my heart dropped to my stomach and I thought immediately of my daughter and what that meant for my family.

“But after researching the disease on Blood Cancer UK’s website, it became apparent many people survived this form of cancer and that my life didn’t have to stop, not forever anyway.”

Blood cancer symptoms can be varied and often very vague. Here are some of the signs:

  • Persistent and unexplained tiredness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained bruising and/or bleeding
  • Persistent infection
  • Breathlessness
  • Drenching night sweats
  • Lumps or swellings in the neck, head, groin or stomach
  • Bone/joint pain

Head of support services at Blood Cancer UK, Kate Keightley, said: “Sadly, symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss and night sweats can sometimes be dismissed or downplayed and the result can be devastating.

“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.”

She urged people to ensure they “urgently make an appointment” with a GP if they have symptoms that cannot be explained and are persistent.

 Sky News

© Sky News 2020

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