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Over half of Brits don’t know symptoms of blood cancer

The Bloodwise logo. Bloodwise appears in black text against a white background
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Updated 04 Sep 2018

Only 1 in 10 people are confident they know the common symptoms of blood cancer despite it being one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the UK.

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A poll of more than 2,000 British adults published today (Tuesday 4 September 2018) reveals that just 1% of people are “very confident” they could identify common symptoms of blood cancer, with over half the population not knowing any symptoms at all.

On the contrary, more than 8 in 10 (84%) people said they were “not very” or “not at all” confident.

Yet 1 in 19 people will be diagnosed with blood cancer, which is the 3rd biggest cause of cancer deaths killing more people every year than either breast or prostate cancer.

When people were asked to list what they thought were common symptoms of blood cancer, over half (52%) of respondents said they didn’t know any.

Blood cancer symptoms can be varied and often very vague. People can have just one or many of these before diagnosis – and in some cases, none at all:

  • Persistent and unexplained tiredness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained bruising and/or bleeding
  • Persistent infection
  • Breathlessness.
  • Drenching night sweats
  • Lumps or swellings in the neck, head, groin or stomach
  • Bone/joint pain

Men were more likely to say they didn’t know the symptoms of blood cancer (60%) in comparison to women (44%) – poignant, given that men are much more likely to be diagnosed with blood cancer.

Just under a third (32%) of survey respondents knew that fatigue was a common symptom, while 1 in 10 correctly identified bruising (11%) and weight loss (10%) as symptoms.

Recall of other common symptoms of blood cancer was even lower, with only 1 in 20 (5%) respondents identifying aches and pains, 2% citing repeated infections/a weak immune system, 2% identifying lumps and just 1% listing night sweats/sweating.

The survey was commissioned by Bloodwise to mark Blood Cancer Awareness Month which runs annually in September. The results reveal the urgent need to raise public awareness of blood cancers.

Sarah Porch, Head of Information and Support Services at Bloodwise, said: “Symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss and night sweats can sometimes be dismissed or downplayed. It’s very worrying that public awareness that these could be signs of blood cancer continues to be so low.

“Getting diagnosed early can improve the success of treatment for a number of types of blood cancer. If symptoms cannot be explained and are persistent, people should make an appointment with their GP.  While it is unlikely to be anything serious, it is important to get it checked out.”

Bloodwise provides information and support for anyone affected by blood cancer. Our Support Line is open from Monday to Friday between 10am and 4pm.

Find out how to Make Blood Cancer Visible during Blood Cancer Awareness Month.