Australians will not seek help for blood cancer symptoms: survey

Blood cancers

By Michael Woodhead

10 Feb 2022

Australians have limited awareness of blood cancers, with a new survey showing most don’t realise how common they are and would not recognise or act on the symptoms.

The Leukaemia Foundation has released what it says are concerning new figures showing 70% of Australians are unaware that blood cancers are the second most diagnosed cancers and the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Australia

Responses obtained from more than 1000 adults in August 2021 showed that the most common types of cancer that respondents were aware of included breast cancer (93%), lung cancer (91%), prostate cancer (88%), bowel cancer (87%), brain cancer (86%), melanoma (83%), followed by blood cancer (76%).

Almost six in ten (57%) Australians were unaware that blood cancer was the most commonly diagnosed childhood cancer in Australia.

About half (49%) of Australians believed that a patient diagnosed with blood cancer has a good chance of survival, while one in four (26%) disagreed and one in four (25%) were unsure.

When asked about the symptoms of blood cancer,  78% of people said they would not be confident in identifying them and almost a one third (30%) they weren’t sure they would consult their GP about them even if they had them.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Chris Tanti said the findings were concerning given that rates of blood cancers were increasing and expected to double by 2035.

“Today’s figures confirm that Australians are still in the dark when it comes to blood cancer,” he said

“The first step to defeating blood cancer is raising awareness and making Australians aware of the symptoms. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it can result in a delayed diagnosis and impact your chance of survival.”

There is also a need to encourage people to see their GP if they have common blood cancer symptoms such as recurrent infections, unexplained weight loss, bruising and enlarged lymph nodes that don’t improve, said Mr Tanti .

“With the recent sharp increase of omicron COVID-19 cases, there is a risk of blood cancer symptoms being dismissed or mistaken for this virus, making raising awareness of blood cancer symptoms more important than ever before.

According to the Leukaemia Foundation, 110,000 Australians are living with blood cancer now including leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma, and more than 5,700 are expected to lose their life to blood cancer this year.

“By 2035, twice as many Australians will be diagnosed and almost three times as many will lose their life to blood cancer,” Mr Tanti said.

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