‘Channel your inner five-year-old’ to spot the signs of leukaemia

Spot Leukaemia urge adults to check for signs of disease

Families are being asked to “channel their inner five-year-old” and ask “why” if they notice unusual health symptoms… for they could be caused by leukaemia.

It comes after a survey found more than a third of people were clueless about the signs, with late diagnoses contributing to poor survival rates.

There are almost 10,000 new UK cases of the disease – a blood cancer that affects cells in the bone marrow – each year. Only half of patients live longer than five years after their diagnosis, making it one of the most deadly types of cancer.

A poll of 2,000 people found just eight knew that the four most common symptoms of leukaemia were fatigue, bruising, repeat infections and unexplained bleeding.

Worryingly, some 37 percent could not identify a single symptom. Less than half those surveyed by Censuswide said they would visit a GP if they had one of the four tell-tale signs.

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A quarter said they did not want to add to pressure on the NHS, while the same number would be put off by long waiting times.

Charities Leukaemia Care and Leukaemia UK are launching the #SpotLeukaemia campaign today to encourage people to know the signs and seek help urgently.

Zack Pemberton-Whiteley, who is the chief executive of Leukaemia Care, said that awareness was “worryingly low”.

He added: “This figure, that just eight people from those answering could identify an illness where early diagnosis is crucial, tells us we still have a lot of work to do around the understanding of leukaemia to help increase survival rates.

“If the public can learn more about the signs and symptoms, they may well save someone’s life. Twenty-seven people are diagnosed every day, just under 10,000 a year. We want to keep working towards helping people to know what to look for.”

A campaign video, launched today to mark World Leukaemia Day, encourages viewers to “channel your inner five-year-old”.

It shows children asking elderly relatives embarrassing questions about their bodies, such as: “Nanna, why is your belly so squishy?” The curious youngsters then start asking questions that could point to a serious illness, such as: “Grandma, why do you have bruises on your arm?”.

And at one point she is asked: “Why are you always too tired to play?” A voiceover explains: “Children ask ‘why?’ a lot. We want you to ask it more.

“If you’ve noticed changes in yourself, such as feeling weak or tired, bruises or bleeding that seems strange, or getting ill more often than usual, then it’s time to channel your inner five-year-old and ask ‘why?’.

“It could be a symptom of leukaemia. Contact your GP surgery and ask for a blood test.” Leukaemia affects people of all ages but is most common among over 65s.

Other less common symptoms include fever or night sweats, bone or joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes.

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Fiona Hazell, chief executive of Leukaemia UK, said: “It’s concerning to learn that so few UK adults can correctly identify the four most common symptoms of leukaemia, or even any symptoms at all.

“Each day in the UK 27 people are diagnosed, and despite decades of progress, only half of leukaemia patients will live longer than five years after diagnosis.

“Spotting the signs of leukaemia and asking for that all-important blood test can make a meaningful difference in treating this disease.

“That’s why it’s even more concerning to learn that most people would not visit their GP if experiencing one of the four most common symptoms. We would encourage anyone who is concerned about leukaemia to make an appointment to request a blood test as soon as possible.”

  • To find out more, visit www.spotleukaemia.org.uk.

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