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Blood Cancer Awareness Month – Knowing the Symptoms

Blood Cancer Awareness Month – Knowing the Symptoms
21 September 2022

Over half of UK adults cannot name a single symptom of blood cancer despite it being the third biggest cancer killer in the UK.

The charity Blood Cancer UK commissioned a YouGov poll of more than 2,200 UK adults to mark Blood Cancer Awareness Month, and the findings highlight an urgent need to raise public awareness of blood cancer.

When people were asked to spontaneously list what they thought were common signs of blood cancer, more than half (55 per cent) said they did not know of any.

A quarter (25 per cent) said it would be somewhat or extremely unlikely they would consult a GP if they had any of the main symptoms associated with the disease: fatigue, bruising, swollen lymph nodes and night sweats.


"People underestimate their risk by thinking that leukaemia is a childhood disease. In reality, both incidence and mortality rates rise sharply after the age of 55."

–Fiona Hazell

Chief Executive, Leukaemia UK


Increased Risk for Over-55s


Leukaemia charities Leukaemia UK and Leukaemia Care also conducted their own research, finding that nationally, those who are over 55 also underestimate their risk, thinking that leukaemia is a childhood disease. Only 11 per cent of over 55s thought that they had the greatest risk of leukaemia, whereas in reality cases rise sharply after the age of 55 and 38 per cent of all new cases occur in the over 75s.

Whilst it is true that leukaemia is the most common type of childhood cancer, leukaemia incidence rates rise sharply after the age of 55 and 38 per cent of all new diagnoses occur in those over 75.

Fiona Hazell, Chief Executive of Leukaemia UK said, “It’s extremely worrying that less than 1 per cent of Brits are able to identify the most common symptoms of leukaemia, when 28 people are diagnosed each day in the UK. People underestimate their risk by thinking that leukaemia is a childhood disease. In reality, both incidence and mortality rates rise sharply after the age of 55. Raising awareness in this age group is critical in order to treat it early and effectively; and ultimately to improve survival rates overall.”


Joel the Electrician – Case Study


Joel from Bishop’s Stortford was at first misdiagnosed with arthritis. As an electrician, Joel’s symptoms were blamed on having a very active job and his back and joint pain was always put down to his occupation.

Joel grew very fatigued, which was blamed on not being able to sleep from the pain. He was off his food and lost weight but there always appeared to be an answer for everything. After countless GP appointments, calls to 111, multiple A&E visits and swapping GP surgeries, constantly challenging his diagnosis, Joel was finally given an MRI scan and a blood test.

Due to the pandemic delays, Joel had to wait four months for the MRI. On the day he and his partner Amy were due to go and collect the results, Amy went into their bedroom to wake Joel, to find him lying in agony and that his lips had gone blue. They rushed to A&E and whilst on the journey, the consultant rang and told them: “Joel has blood cancer”. 

Amy said, “I will never, ever forget Joel’s face when those words were said. Once we arrived in A&E, we waited for 4 hours. During this time Joel caught sepsis. He was rushed to intensive care. In 24 hours our world had been turned upside down.” 

Defying all odds, Joel recovered from the sepsis and was out of intensive care after two days. Joel was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and Joel, Amy and their daughter, began Joel’s cancer journey together.

Joel went through his first round of chemotherapy and had a rare adverse reaction to a drug resulting in him developing pancreatitis and ending up in intensive care once more. Whilst still receiving treatment, Joel is now in remission but the challenges brought about by the leukaemia diagnosis and treatment continue.

Now, Amy wants to tell their family’s story in order to make sure that the symptoms of blood cancer become more widely known. She said, “That’s why we are working with charities like Leukaemia UK to raise awareness of this disease. More training should also be provided to healthcare professionals on how to spot blood cancer.

“We were never thinking cancer, but perhaps if we had been more aware of the symptoms of leukaemia we would have presented this to the GP and fought even harder for a blood test to confirm a diagnosis.”


New Blood Cancer Awareness Campaign – Harry the Parrot


Leukaemia UK and Leukaemia Care are collaborating on an important ad campaign, #SpotLeukaemia, to raise awareness of the symptoms: fatigue, bruising, unusual bleeding and repeated infections.

The ad sees Henry, a Macaw parrot, creating a catchy “Spot Leukaemia rap” featuring the symptoms of leukaemia.

People who are concerned about any of these symptoms are being strongly urged by the charities to contact their GP and request a blood test. More information is available on the Spot Leukaemia website at

Whilst the campaign focuses on the top four symptoms, other symptoms of leukaemia include fever or night sweats, bone or joint pain and swollen lymph nodes.


Watch the Video




Picture: a photograph of a close-up of a stethoscope. Image Credit: Pexels

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 21 September 2022


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