THOUSANDS of blood cancer cases are being missed because Brits don’t know the symptoms, medics fear.
Blood Cancer UK found in a survey that 56 per cent of people can’t name a single symptom of the disease, which is diagnosed 40,000 times a year in the UK.
Tiredness, weight loss, bruises, feeling breathless and bone or joint pain can all be signs of the blood cancer, which include leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.
Experts worry people are even less likely to spot signs now because many, such as a fever, feeling tired or struggling to breathe, are similar to Covid.
Blood Cancer UK’s Kate Keightley said: “It’s extremely worrying that public awareness that these could be signs of blood cancer continues to be so low.
“Getting diagnosed as early as possible can really help improve the success of treatment for a number of types of blood cancer.”
The findings, which come a day ahead of the beginning of Blood Cancer Awareness Month, showed that just one per cent correctly identified fever as a sign of the disease.
Breathlessness was a symptom identified by just three per cent.
There has been no improvement on symptom awareness in three years, with experts saying the cancer has very vague signs that can be missed.
Blood cancer is the third biggest cancer killer in the UK, taking the lives of around 15,000 people every year.
One in every 16 men and one in every 22 women will develop it at some point in their lives, the charity says.
It’s seen in people of all ages; despite the risk of a diagnosis increasing with age, it is the most common type of cancer seen in children.
What are the symptoms?
Blood cancer symptoms vary depending on the type of blood cancer.
But generally, Blood Cancer UK warn of the following:
Weight loss that is unexplained
Cancer cells and the body’s reaction to them can alter the body’s metabolism and reduce muscle and fat.
Bruising or bleeding that is unexplained
This is a result of low platelets, as they help the blood to clot. A patient may notice tiny little red or purple dots under the skin that looks like a rash, bleeding from the gums or nose, heavy or prolonged periods and blood in urine or faeces.
Lumps or swellings
Lumps are caused by an abnormal amount of white blood cells building up in the lymph glands, found in the neck, armpit and groin.
They can also be inside the body and press on organs, causing pain or breathlessness (if against the lungs).
Shortness of breath (breathlessness)
Breathlessness is a result of having anaemia, when the red blood cell level is low. Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body, so if you don’t have enough red blood cells, you can become anaemic.
Tiredness that doesn’t improve with sleep (fatigue)
Anaemia can cause tiredness that doesn’t go away with rest or sleep.
Unusually pale complexion (pallor)
A pale complexion is also a result of anemia. Other symptoms of anaemia include feeling faint and headaches.
Drenching night sweats
If you wake up in the night drenched in sweat, it could be a result of blood cancer. Some people with lymphoma get this, but it’s not yet known what causes this.
Infections that are persistent, recurrent or severe
Because of the low level of white blood cells, the body finds it hard to fight infections. It can mean a patient often has symptoms like chills or shivering, coughing or a sore throat.
Fever (38°C or above) that is unexplained
Fever may be one of the symptoms of repeated infections.
Rash or itchy skin that is unexplained
Some people diagnosed with a blood cancer report they had an all-over itch. But there is no visible rash or dry skin. It’s not known why this occurs.
Pain in the bone, joints or abdominal
Myeloma can cause pain in any major bones such as the back, ribs or hips. There may also be stomach pain, bloating or swelling, or occasionally pain. Some patients feel full after eating only a small amount.
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