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Thousands more people with blood cancer symptoms being referred to hospital

The Bloodwise logo. Bloodwise appears in black text against a white background
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14 Jun 2018

Thousands more people with potential blood cancer are being urgently referred to hospital specialists according to new statistics published this morning.

A doctor measures a patient's blood pressure

NHS England statistics show that urgent referrals for suspected blood cancer have risen dramatically by almost one-fifth during the past two years, suggesting that GPs may have developed a greater awareness of possible blood cancer symptoms in recent months.

It can be hard for doctors to spot the signs of blood cancer as symptoms can be vague. Patients often report general fatigue, night sweats, weight loss, or bruising, all of which can be mistaken for other, less serious conditions.

The surge in hospital referrals could also be due to patients themselves developing a better understanding of blood cancer, and so presenting more frequently at doctors’ surgeries to report potential symptoms. In the past year there have been a number of high profile cases of people affected by blood cancer which has helped to raise public awareness of symptoms.

In response to the increase in urgent referrals, Dr Alasdair Rankin, Bloodwise Director of Research and Patient Experience, said:

“It is interesting to see that more GPs are urgently referring people with possible blood cancer symptoms to specialists. Blood cancer symptoms can be vague and easily confused with other conditions such as flu or being run down.

“However, we know that early diagnosis can make a big difference to an individual’s chance of survival as well as to their quality of life. We would encourage all GPs to refer patients with any possible blood cancer symptoms for an immediate blood test, as recommended by a group of MPs earlier in the year.”

Blood cancer is the 5th most common cancer in the UK and 3rd biggest cause of cancer deaths, claiming more lives than either breast or prostate cancer.

The NHS England statistics show an 18% increase in urgent GP referrals for suspected blood cancer, from 16,009 in 2015/16 to 18,877 in 2017/18.

If you have any questions or concerns about blood cancer, our Support Line is open from Monday to Friday between 10am and 4pm.