More than half of UK adults cannot spot a symptom of blood cancer, a survey found as a charity warned that some of the signs could be mistaken for COVID-19.
The percentage of people who said they didn’t know any symptoms of the third largest cancer The number of killers in the UK has increased 4% since a similar survey in 2018.
The survey conducted by Blood Cancer UK found that 56% of people couldn’t name any signs – up from 52% of those polled three years ago.
The charity said the lack of public awareness of the condition was “extremely worrying”.
The results, released the day before the start of Blood Cancer Awareness Month, showed that only 1% of people surveyed recently identified fever as a sign of the disease.
Shortness of breath was a symptom only noted by 3%, which the charity feared that this sign, along with fever and fatigue, could result in many cases being mistaken for COVID-19 and left undetected.
Awareness of other symptoms has remained roughly the same since 2018.
Just under a third (30%) of people knew fatigue is a common sign, while 11% correctly identified bruising and 10% noted weight loss.
Only one in 20 respondents reported pain, 2% said they had repeated infections, and 1% reported lumps and night sweats.
The charity says that one in 19 people will be diagnosed with blood cancer, which includes leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma, at some point in their life, and more people die in the UK than breast or prostate cancers each year.
The pain got worse until she was sent for a blood test in March this year, and after a week in the hospital, she was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma.
Now, with a young daughter, she is facing eight months of chemotherapy.
She said, “When I heard the word cancer, my heart hit my stomach and I immediately thought of my daughter and what it meant for my family.
“But after researching the disease on the Blood Cancer UK website, it turned out that many people survived this form of cancer and my life didn’t have to stop, at least not forever.”
The symptoms of blood cancer can be varied and often very vague. Here are some of the signs:
- Persistent and unexplained fatigue
- Inexplicable weight loss
- unexplained bruising and / or bleeding
- Persistent infection
- Soaked night sweats
- Lumps or swellings in the neck, head, groin, or stomach
- Bone / joint pain
Kate Keightley, Head of Support Services at Blood Cancer UK, said, “Unfortunately symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss and night sweats can sometimes be dismissed or downplayed and the result can be devastating.
“Far fewer people were diagnosed with blood cancer during the height of the pandemic, and one of the reasons could be that some of the symptoms of blood cancer are easily mistaken for COVID.
“It is extremely worrying that public awareness that these could be signs of blood cancer remains so low.”
She urged people to ensure that they “make an urgent appointment with a family doctor” if they have symptoms that cannot be explained and are persistent.