Blood cancer: Symptoms explained by healthcare professionals
Blood cancer is the third biggest cancer killer in the UK, with more than 35 people dying every day from the serious condition, according to Leukaemia UK.
There are many different types of blood cancer but leukaemia is considered one of the three main kinds.
Two charities, Leukaemia UK and Leukaemia Care, are now trying to spread awareness about the warning signs of leukaemia, which is often diagnosed too late.
Worryingly, this type of blood cancer is often hard to spot because its symptoms can be quite vague and aren’t well known.
Fortunately, symptom awareness could be the first step to identifying any cancerous changes.
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One of the most common signs that could ring alarm bells is ecchymosis, also known as bruising.
A bruise usually crops up when the blood vessels under your skin are damaged.
Patients with leukaemia are more likely to sustain these colourful skin changes because their bodies don’t make enough platelets to plug bleeding blood vessels.
While leukaemia bruises look like any other bruise, there are usually more of them than usual.
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These tell-tale signs may also show up in unusual parts of your body, such as your back.
Apart from bruises, Leukaemia UK urges looking out for the following symptoms and signs:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bleeding easily
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Swollen and/or sore stomach
- Frequent infections
- Night sweats
- Pain in bones/joints
- Shortness of breath.
If you notice any of these symptoms, the charity recommends speaking to your GP.
“If you spot one or more symptoms, please ask your GP for a blood test,” Leukaemia UK advises.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines state that you are required to have an urgent blood test (within 48 hours) if you are presenting with any of the symptoms of leukaemia.
Your doctor should look at your complete blood count (CBC) to determine if you have blood cancer.
Abnormal levels of white blood cells and abnormally low red blood cell or platelet counts could also be warning signs of leukaemia.
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