GPs should order blood tests for any patient who has a symptom of blood cancer, a group of MPs has said.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Blood Cancer said that many signs of blood cancer can be “misunderstood or misdiagnosed”.
In a new report, the group said that diagnosing blood cancer – such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma – can be “complex”.
Highlighting one patient group, MPs described how some elderly myeloma patients reporting symptoms of back ache and bone pain are told their symptom is “part of the ageing process”.
In order to improve early diagnosis rates, they called on GPs to immediately order a blood test for anyone presenting with one or more symptoms of blood cancer.
Symptoms of blood cancers can be similar to the symptoms of feeling “run down” or flu, such as fatigue, night sweats, weight loss, bruising and pain, they said.
🎉🎉This year, Jackie will be celebrating four years since she had a lifesaving blood stem cell donation. Read the incredible story about her fight against #AcuteMyeloidLeukaemia (#AML):https://t.co/ZdxxBDjXRl pic.twitter.com/HAetmFDHkS— DKMS UK (@DKMS_uk) January 14, 2018
Chairman of the patient group MP Henry Smith, whose mother died from acute myeloid leukaemia in 2012, said: “Blood cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the UK and someone is diagnosed every 14 minutes.
“I have witnessed the terrible effects of blood cancer firsthand but general awareness among the public, health professionals and policymakers is very low, and we must work together to change this.
“Delays in diagnosis can have a severe impact on an individual’s chance of survival, as well as on their quality of life.”
Commenting on the report, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “The term blood cancer is used to cover a range of conditions including leukaemias, lymphomas and myeloma; leukaemia is usually picked up through one of the tests that GPs order very frequently – a full blood count.
“Each type of blood cancer can present in a varied way and GPs will base their decisions around what diagnostic testing is most appropriate on the symptoms being displayed by, and the unique circumstances potentially affecting, the patient in front of us.
“Any decision to pursue opportunistic testing must not be undertaken lightly as GPs need a good scientific evidence base before they order any investigations.”