New campaign aims to raise awareness of leukaemia symptoms

A campaign to raise awareness of the symptoms of leukaemia has been launched after a survey found that nearly one in ten patients with the disease did not visit their GP until more than a year after they first started feeling unwell.

Leukaemia cells and white blood cells (Picture: iStock)
Leukaemia cells and white blood cells (Picture: iStock)

Charity Leukaemia Care surveyed over 2,000 people living with leukaemia in the UK. It found that over half of leukaemia patients put off visiting their GP for more than a month after first experiencing symptoms, while 9% did not see a GP for over a year.

The most common symptoms patients reported before diagnosis were fatigue, bleeding or bruising, bone or joint pain, fever or night sweats, sleeping problems and shortness of breath.

The survey also found that despite 81% of patients experiencing symptoms before their diagnosis, very few suspected that they may have cancer.

Leukaemia is the 12th most common cancer in the UK, with over 9,500 people diagnosed each year. However, Leukaemia Care said that because the symptoms are typically vague and non-specific, people with leukaemia are more likely to be diagnosed following an emergency admission than patients with all other types of cancer.

GP training

The charity has launched its new 'Spot Leukaemia' campaign to help raise public awareness of the signs and symptoms of leukaemia. As part of the initiative Leukaemia Care has produced two online training modules in partnership with the RCGP to support GPs’ understanding of blood cancer.

Some 22% of the patients surveyed said they had visited their GP more than three times before they were referred to hospital.

Zack Pemberton-Whiteley, head of campaigns and advocacy at Leukaemia Care, said: ‘GPs play a crucial role in diagnosing leukaemia early. However, blood cancer is relatively rare, they may only see one or two cases each year, and the symptoms are notoriously vague and non-specific. This makes diagnosing leukaemia quickly even more challenging.

‘We urgently need to improve leukaemia awareness among GPs so that patients can get a diagnosis and access treatment faster. That’s why Leukaemia Care has launched the Spot Leukaemia campaign, along with training modules for GPs.’

The GP training module can be accessed here.

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