Senior Health Information Writer, Blood Cancer UK
The symptoms of blood cancer are many and varied – some might even say vague. Often, patients and medical professionals alike put them down to age, stress or other less serious conditions.
It is found that 30% of people who get a blood cancer diagnosis have to see their GP three or more times. Another 30% are diagnosed after a visit to A&E.
Diagnosing blood cancer early can make all the difference to people’s mental health, treatment options and chances of survival. So, it’s important for everyone to be aware of the main symptoms.
Know the symptoms of blood cancer
The signs and symptoms of blood cancer may include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unexplained bruising or bleeding
- Lumps or swellings
- Shortness of breath (breathlessness)
- Drenching night sweats
- Infections that are persistent, recurrent or severe
- Fever (38°C or above) that is unexplained
- Unexplained rash or itchy skin
- Pain in your bones, joints or abdomen (stomach area)
- Tiredness that doesn’t improve with rest or sleep (fatigue)
- Paleness (pallor).
Symptoms in different skin tones
It’s also important to recognise that many sources of information, including medical handbooks, focus on how symptoms present in white skin only. This is misleading.
On black and brown skin, bruises can be difficult to see initially, but as they develop, they show as darker than the skin around them. Rashes look purple or darker than the surrounding skin. Paleness or pallor (caused by a lack of red blood cells) can be easier to spot in the palms, lips, gums, tongue or nail beds or by pulling down the lower eyelid — if it’s white or pale pink inside rather than red, it’s a sign of pallor.
Diagnosing blood cancer early can make all the difference to people’s mental health, treatment options and chances of survival.
Report anything unusual
The most important message is for people to contact their GP if they have any symptoms that are long-lasting or unusual for them. If symptoms carry on or get worse after seeing the GP, make sure to return. Kerry Williams was diagnosed with myeloma last year. She went to her doctor because she had a period that went on longer than normal. “If I’d just ignored the fact that my period was going on for too long, at what point would it have been discovered? Because it was picked up early, it hasn’t affected my kidneys or bones. So, if you don’t think something’s right, then definitely get it checked.”