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GPs 'need help with blood cancers'

Family doctors need to be able to spot more cases of blood cancer at an earlier stage, a charity has said.

GPs need better knowledge of blood cancers such as leukaemia so they can help diagnose patients when their cancer is at an earlier stage, Leukaemia Care said.

More than half of patients with the condition are only diagnosed after they have gone to hospital as an emergency case, the charity said. This often means that their cancer is at a more advanced stage and can be harder to treat.

It also said that many members of the general public do not know the signs and symptoms of blood cancers. This can mean p atients end up going to the doctors many times with different problems before their cancer is spotted.

A poll conducted by the charity found almost two in three of 2,000 Britons surveyed were not able to identify symptoms of blood cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

The charity said it is easier to diagnose blood cancers if the symptoms appear in clusters such as persistent fatigue, night sweats, joint pain, bruising and recurrent infections. But in the earlier stages of the illness, only one or two of these symptoms may be present.

It has launched a new online tool for GPs to help them raise their awareness of blood cancers.

"Blood cancer is an incredibly difficult illness to recognise, as our research shows," said Esther Wroughton, care director at the charity.

"Many people just don't connect all the symptoms and end up going to the doctor's many times with different problems before it is diagnosed. We recognise this and are committed to helping the general public take better care and to helping GPs detect the disease earlier.

"Misdiagnosis at an early stage can be extremely serious for the patient - it increases the chances their disease will become more advanced before being treated - potentially making it far harder to actually overcome.

"In fact, NHS data shows that 57% of all acute leukaemias are identified when someone attends hospital as an emergency. This tells us we need to better arm our GPs with knowledge, guidance, advice and support to spot the symptoms earlier and that is what we are doing."

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