There are few signs of improvements in the speed of diagnosis of blood cancers, according to a recent analysis by the UK charity Bloodwise of a national survey.
The National Cancer Patient Experience Survey for 2018, published by NHS England, reports that patients continue to make multiple visits to their GP before getting a referral.
The survey showed that 28% of patients diagnosed with blood cancers had to visit a GP three or more times before being referred for diagnosis. This was a slight increase on 27.7% in 2017, but Bloodwise said this compared “poorly” with other types of cancer. The equivalent rate for urological cancer was 15.5%, and 9.1% for skin cancer.
The survey, which reflects the experiences of more than 70,000 cancer patients in England, also found patients with blood cancers struggling to understand explanations of their diagnosis. Just 60% said they completely understood the explanation they were given, which is 12.7 percentage points lower than for other types of cancer.
Bloodwise said its own recent research, through pollsters YouGov, showed that 39% of adults had had at least one symptom in the last year that could have been a blood cancer – but did not see a doctor.
Christopher Walden, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Bloodwise, said: “The fact that around a third of people with blood cancer are having to go to their GP at least three times before being diagnosed shows there is a serious problem with how blood cancer is being identified. It is wrong that so many people have to struggle to get a diagnosis.
“This is a problem that has been going on for a number of years, and it is vital that the NHS’s commitment to improving diagnosis addresses the unique needs of people with blood cancer.”