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A blood cancer diagnosis is not an emergency

written by

Leukaemia Care, Charity

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The findings from a survey of the charity’s members showed that 28% indicated that they felt their GPs did not listen to them at all or did not pay sufficient attention to them during consultations.  Patients with blood cancers experience greater delays in getting an accurate diagnosis, increasing the chances that their disease will be more advanced before being treated.  NHS data show that 57% of all acute leukaemias identified when someone attends hospital as an emergency – more than most other cancer types. 

The charity’s report Defining high quality care for haematological cancer patients highlights what matters most to patients and carers affected by the disease.  Based on the findings from a survey of its supporters’ network and NHS figures, the report also underlines the need to improve processes for identifying cases early, including the recognition of symptom clusters such as night sweats, tiredness and unexplained pain and bruising on the body.  It includes a series of recommendations aimed at improving the quality of care available to people affected by blood cancers.

Increasing the consistency and quality of diagnosis has been identified as the most effective way of improving outcomes for blood cancer patients.  To address this problem, Leukaemia CARE is calling for better support for GPs and practice nurses to help them to recognise the cluster of symptoms that may suggest blood cancer and trigger a referral to a specialist.

Commenting on the report, one patient said: “The results of this survey reflect my own experience with my GP. I often felt that I wasn’t being listened to when I went to see him and, as a result, I wasn’t sent for a blood test until I had been to see him several times. The delay was very worrying. I know blood cancer is not always easy to diagnose so I fully support the need to address this problem by providing GPs with a ‘toolkit’ to help them recognise blood cancers earlier by identifying clusters of symptoms.

“I feel that many blood cancer patients like myself should be diagnosed much earlier as this will help to take away much of the worry and might improve quality of life in the long term.”

Tony Gavin, Director of Campaigning and Advocacy at Leukaemia CARE, said: “The number of people with blood cancer being diagnosed at a late stage is very concerning.  Blood cancer can be hard to identify.  As a result, GPs and nurses need to be equipped with dedicated resources to enable them to spot the key signs and symptoms, and decide whether further tests or a referral to a specialist is appropriate.  Identifying potential cases at the earliest opportunity will help to improve outcomes for patients, as well as reduce the burden on A&E departments.”