20th September 2019

Blood cancer symptoms
don't have to be cryptic

We're supporting Blood Cancer Awareness Month this September, helping to raise awareness of leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma as well as other rarer conditions.

Grouped together, in the UK the lifetime risk of developing a blood cancer is 5.3% (or 1 in every 19 people). There are some 240,000 people living with blood cancer in the UK and 40,000 people are diagnosed each year.1  Although treatment is constantly progressing, , the long-term effects of treatment can be devastating both for patients and their families.

One part of the problem is that the symptoms of blood cancers can be quite non-specific and so those affected may not recognise them and visit a doctor promptly. A survey of over 2,000 people carried out by YouGov on behalf of Bloodwise, the UK’s leading blood cancer research charity, looked at the public’s attitude to symptoms that are ‘red flags’ for types of blood cancer such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. The results were released to coincide with the start of Blood Cancer Awareness Month.

One question in the survey concerned the symptoms which would prompt respondents to go to a doctor. Lumps or swellings in the neck, head, groin or stomach would make more than 8 out of 10 (83%) people get checked out, and repeated infections would be enough for 7 out of 10 (70%) people to seek medical advice. However, only around 4 in 10 would seek medical help for drenching night sweats (35%) or unexplained itchy skin (28%).

The Bloodwise campaign slogan is – Blood cancer symptoms aren’t cryptic.

And the campaign imagery says it all…

Article image

Here’s a list of common blood cancer symptoms:

  • unexplained bruising or bleeding
  • unexplained weight loss
  • lumps or swellings
  • drenching night sweats
  • persistent, recurrent or severe infections
  • unexplained fever (38°C or above)
  • unexplained rash or itchy skin
  • bone, joint or abdominal pain
  • tiredness that doesn’t improve with rest or sleep
  • breathlessness
  • unusually pale complexion

As well as being aware of symptoms, what else can we do?  One suggestion is to register to become a bone marrow donor with the British Bone Marrow Registry (BBMR) which helps people find stem cell matches. The BBMR is part of NHS Blood and Transplant and works in co-operation with the UK’s other bone marrow and blood donor registries, the charity Anthony Nolan, and the NHS Cord Blood Bank. They are also part of an international network that helps find matches for people across the world.

If you would like to be a bone marrow donor, look here for further information: https://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/british-bone-marrow-registry/how-can-i-help/

For more information on blood cancers, visit https://bloodwise.org.uk/

Or these links: 

http://bit.ly/2ZaItIc. #BloodCancerClues

http://bit.ly/312122W. #BloodCancerClues

1. https://bloodwise.org.uk/info-support/blood-cancer Last accessed 19.09.19