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New report finds blood cancer patients most likely to have diagnosis delays

The Bloodwise logo. Bloodwise appears in black text against a white background
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10 Jan 2019
Bloodwise Ambassador Joe pictured with his dog

Our new report finds that people with blood cancer are more likely to have to visit their GP multiple times than people with any other type of cancer.

We launched the Hear our voice report in Parliament on Tuesday 8 January, which features experiences of people from across the UK who have been diagnosed with or lost a relative to blood cancer, which includes leukaemia, lymphoma and myelomaIt calls on NHS England not to leave blood cancers behind in the delivery of its Long Term Plan’s ambition to ensure 75% of cancers are diagnosed at stages 1 and 2.

Our analysis of NHS data shows that over a third (35.6%) of people with a blood cancer need to visit their GP three or more times with symptoms before being referred to hospital – now more than for any other type of cancer. The earlier people are diagnosed the better their chance of living longer or surviving blood cancer. We ask that the NHS makes blood cancer a key part of its commitment to earlier cancer diagnosis.

Blood cancer is the fifth most common cancer and the third biggest cause of cancer death, killing more people each year in the UK than either breast or prostate cancer.

Starting treatment earlier can significantly improve survival for some types of blood cancer, but many symptoms – such as a back pain or shortness of breath – are easy for GPs to misdiagnose.

The latest National Cancer Patient Experience Survey, published in 2018, revealed that blood cancer is now the worse performing cancer in terms of early diagnosis, with 35.6% of blood cancer patients visiting their GP three times or more before being referred to hospital – compared to 23% of cancer patients overall. Also, 14% of blood cancer patients had to see their GP five or more times before a diagnosis – compared to 8%of cancer patients overall.

The new report calls on NHS England to work with others to ensure that GPs know the signs and symptoms of blood cancer and can refer patients promptly to the right specialists.

Awareness of blood cancer among the general public is also remarkably low. We commissioned a YouGuv survey last year which found just half of people are able to name a single symptom.

The report also calls for better emotional support for people with blood cancer. 
Our research shows 81% of people diagnosed with blood cancer receive little to no emotional support during treatment and afterwards. In addition, it outlines the need for improved access to treatment. Faster, smarter and more expensive treatments will soon be available for certain types of blood cancer. It’s important health care professionals don’t place a price tag on people’s health.

Read the Hear Our Voice report