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Blood cancer diagnoses continue to lag behind other cancers

The Bloodwise logo. Bloodwise appears in black text against a white background
Posted by
06 Sep 2019

Around a third of people with blood cancer symptoms were forced to visit their GP three or more times before being referred to a hospital for diagnosis, a new survey has found.

Published this week by NHS England, the 2018 National Cancer Patient Experience Survey (CPES) found that for the fourth year running, people were having to make multiple visits to their GP before being referred to a hospital for diagnosis. This number, 28% – up slightly from 27.7% in 2017 – compares poorly with other cancer types including breast cancer (3.7%), skin cancer (9.1%), and urological cancer (15.2%).

The annual CPES survey provides insight into the care felt by cancer patients in England. Capturing the experiences of over 70,000 patients across the country, the 2018 survey informs our work and helps us monitor progress in cancer care.

The survey highlighted a number of areas where blood cancer patients had a vastly different experience of care than those with other cancer types. Additionally, the survey found that just 60% of people with blood cancer completely understood the explanation given to them of their condition. While a slight improvement over the 2017 survey (59%), the figure was 12.7 percentage points lower than for all other cancer types surveyed.

Why do these problems continue?

These results highlight the low public awareness of the signs and symptoms of blood cancer. Recent research from YouGov on behalf of Bloodwise revealed that 39% of UK adults had at least one symptom that could have been blood cancer in the last year but didn’t see a doctor.

Disappointingly, the results of the CPES survey also point to poor healthcare professional understanding of blood cancer.

Christopher Walden, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Bloodwise, said: “The fact that around a third of people with blood cancer are having to go to their GP at least three times before being diagnosed shows there is a serious problem with how blood cancer is being identified. It is wrong that so many people have to struggle to get a diagnosis. This is a problem that has been going on for a number of years, and it is vital that the NHS’s commitment to improving diagnosis addresses the unique needs of people with blood cancer.”

What is Bloodwise doing to help?

We continue to hear stories from people affected by blood cancer of avoidable delays to diagnosis that have had huge consequences for their treatment and potential survival. The Bloodwise Policy and Campaigns team work to raise the profile of blood cancer in the Government and NHS, and highlight these often avoidable delays to diagnosis.

We are soon launching a report which tells the story of blood cancer diagnosis in England. We’ll also be giving you an opportunity to get involved and support our vital call for change.

This Blood Cancer Awareness Month, we’ve launched our symptoms guide which aims to help improve awareness of the potential signs of blood cancer and give people the confidence to speak to their GP if they’re worried.

If you’ve been affected by delays to diagnosis of blood cancer, get in touch to share your experience with us at policy@bloodwise.org.uk

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