Lack of leukaemia awareness leading to delays in diagnosis

Our latest report, Living with Leukaemia looks has uncovered a worrying lack of awareness among the public and GPs. Read on to find out more.

  • Less than half of leukaemia patients (44%) felt their GP had a good understanding of leukaemia
  • Worryingly, one in five patients visited their GP more than three times before being referred to hospital
  • Over half (58%) of leukaemia patients put off visiting their GP for more than a month from when they first started experiencing symptoms

New research by Leukaemia Care into the experiences of people who have received a leukaemia diagnosis has uncovered a worrying lack of awareness among the public and GPs. Leukaemia Care has today warned that this gap in understanding is leading to delays in diagnosis, which severely impacts on survival rates and quality of life for leukaemia patients.

The report, ‘Living with Leukaemia’, surveyed over 2,000 people living with leukaemia in the UK. It found that less than half of respondents felt their GP had a good understanding of the disease. Worryingly, more than one in ten patients were initially treated for something else by their GP.

Today, Leukaemia Care is calling for greater leukaemia awareness among GPs as part of its #SpotLeukaemia campaign. Leukaemia Care, in partnership with the Royal College of General Practitioners, has produced two online training modules to better support GPs’ understanding of blood cancer.

The report also found that over half of leukaemia patients put off visiting their GP for more than a month from when they first started experiencing symptoms. Nearly one in ten (9%) of respondents didn’t see a GP about their symptoms for over a year.

Leukaemia symptoms are typically vague and non-specific. People commonly experience fatigue, shortness of breath, fever and night sweats, bruising or bleeding, joint or bone pain and sleeping problems. As a result, people with leukaemia are more likely to be diagnosed in an emergency than all other cancers. 64% of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) cases and 53% of acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) cases are diagnosed following an emergency admission.

Today, Leukaemia Care is launching #SpotLeukaemia to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of leukaemia. To help #SpotLeukaemia, visit

Commenting on the research, Zack Pemberton-Whiteley, Head of Campaigns and Advocacy at Leukaemia Care, said: “GPs play a crucial role in diagnosing leukaemia early. However, blood cancer is relatively rare, they may only see one or two cases each year, and the symptoms are notoriously vague and non-specific. This makes diagnosing leukaemia quickly even more challenging.

“We urgently need to improve leukaemia awareness among GPs so that patients can get a diagnosis and access treatment faster. That’s why Leukaemia Care has launched the Spot Leukaemia campaign, along with training modules for GPs.”

Dr Ellie Cannon, a London-based GP, said: “I’m supporting the ‘Spot Leukaemia’ campaign this September for Blood Cancer Awareness Month. The campaign seeks to raise awareness amongst the public and medical professionals of the different types of leukaemia, common symptoms and the populations they may affect. Leukaemia can be difficult for GPs to spot, because its relatively rare and symptoms may be vague. Leukaemia has a higher rate of emergency diagnosis (38%) than the cancer average (22%). It is great to see Leukaemia Care working with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) to support and educate GPs by developing online e-learning modules, which help GPs when they suspect leukaemia. Early diagnosis saves lives.

You can access our Living with Leukaemia report here:

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