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Australians in dark on blood cancer symptoms, risking delayed diagnosis and potentially costing lives

Wednesday September 1, 2021

  • New research reveals 4 in 5 Australians are not confident they can identify blood cancer symptoms
  • Lack of blood cancer understanding leading to delayed diagnoses, costing lives
  • Leukaemia Foundation imploring Australians to check any symptoms with GP urgently this Blood Cancer Awareness Month (September)

The Leukaemia Foundation has today released startling new research confirming four in five Australians (78%) aren’t confident they can identify the symptoms of blood cancer, leaving many at risk of a life-threatening delayed diagnosis.

The research also showed that just under one third of Australians (30%) admitted that even if they were experiencing any of the main symptoms associated with blood cancer, they weren’t confident or sure that they would consult their GP about them.

With more than 110,000[i] Australians already living with a blood cancer and 15 Australians losing their life to one every day this year, Leukaemia Foundation CEO Chris Tanti said Blood Cancer Awareness Month, kickstarting today, marked a vitally important moment in time to build public understanding of the disease and spotlight its severity.

“Australians are clearly in the dark when it comes to recognising the vital signs and symptoms of blood cancer, and this lack of awareness and understanding about this deadly set of diseases could end in a significant delay of diagnosis, and this could have serious consequences for them.” Mr Tanti said.

“If you don’t understand what you’re looking for, you can’t possibly have a chance of finding it, and failing to identify blood cancer and diagnose it quickly can be fatal. Ongoing symptoms like recurrent infections, increased fatigue, night sweats, bone pain, bruising or enlarged lymph nodes should be immediately discussed with your GP or blood cancer specialist.

“The vitally important first step to driving down blood cancer mortality is awareness. It’s crucial that we ensure Australians are informed enough to spot it as it develops and feel empowered and confident to seek medical attention before it’s too late.”

Blood cancer figures continue to rise year on year in Australia, with blood cancers combined recently confirmed to be the second most diagnosed cancer and the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the country[ii].

However, unlike other cancers, blood cancer can develop in anyone at any stage of life. There is no way to prevent it through lifestyle change and there are no screening programs to detect it, making it crucially important for every Australian to be personally able to identify blood cancer symptoms. Yet in many cases, blood cancer symptoms can be mistaken for infections like the flu or even COVID-19, which can mean people delay visiting their GP or specialist, sadly leading to a delayed blood cancer diagnosis.

“Acute blood cancers often require treatment to begin in the first 48 hours after diagnosis, with any delay severely impacting survivability, so every hour counts in this fight. If you are experiencing symptoms, your priority must be getting to your doctor and urgently getting a blood test,” Mr Tanti said.

“No-one is immune from developing this disease, so no Australian can afford to be complacent. Blood cancer can be quick to develop, fast to progress and tragically it can swiftly claim lives. So we are imploring with every individual to use this September to educate and inform yourself about blood cancer, learn to identify the symptoms and seek professional help if you do. Your life could literally depend on it.”


Blood cancer signs and symptoms

Leukaemia Foundation ‘[This] is Blood Cancer’ research findings:

Methodology: A nationally representative survey of 1023 Australians aged 18 years and older, by global researcher YouGov, was commissioned by the Leukaemia Foundation.  This study was conducted online between the 16th – 18th August 2021. Following the completion of interviewing, the data was weighted by age, gender and region to reflect the latest ABS population estimates.

Key Findings:

  • The most common types of cancer that Australians are aware of are breast cancer (93%), lung cancer (91%), prostate cancer (88%), bowel cancer (87%), brain cancer (86%) and melanoma (83%). 76% of Australians said they were aware of blood cancer.
  • Only one in five (22%) Australians say they are very or somewhat confident that they could identify the main symptoms associated with blood cancer, while 72% are not confident at all and 6% are unsure.
  • Seven in 10 (70%) Australians say they are very or somewhat confident that if they were experiencing any of the main symptoms associated with blood cancer, that they would consult a G.P.
  • Just half (49%) of Australians agree that a patient diagnosed with blood cancer has a good chance of survival, while one in four (26%) disagree and one in four (25%) are unsure.
  • Only three in 10 (31%) Australians are aware that when combined, blood cancers are the second most diagnosed cancers in Australia, seeing 50 Australians diagnosed every day.
  • Only three in 10 (29%) Australians are aware that when combined, blood cancers are the second most common cause of cancer deaths in Australia, claiming more lives than breast cancer and melanoma combined. 15 Australians lose their life to the disease each day.
  • Just over four in 10 (43%) of Australians are aware that blood cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed childhood cancer in Australia (amongst children aged 0-14), accounting for approximately 45% of all diagnoses.
  • Three in 10 (31%) Australians know someone that has been diagnosed with blood cancer or has lost their life from blood cancer.

For a copy of the full research findings, please contact

Blood Cancer Awareness Month – September 2021:

  • For the first time, public monuments in capital cities and regional areas across Australia and around the world will light up red in support of blood cancer awareness.
  • Leading blood cancer patient groups and organisations are uniting to drive the first-ever international blood cancer theme – #ThisIsBloodCancer. These groups include the Leukaemia Foundation, Blood Cancer UK, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society US, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Canada, and Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand. Join us on social media using the hashtag to unify and amplify the global awareness fight for people living with blood cancer.
  • Australia’s first Blood Cancer Taskforce will be meeting with Federal Parliamentary leaders on 2 September to reinforce the need for urgent action on the National Strategic Action Plan for Blood Cancer.

Blood Cancer in Australia – facts and figures[iii]:

  • Every year, 18,485 Australians will be newly diagnosed with blood cancer such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma. In Australia today, more than 50 people will be told they have blood cancer – equivalent to one person every 28 minutes.
  • Every day, 15 Australians are losing their battle with blood cancer. The disease is expected to claim the lives of more than 5,600 people this year alone.
  • More than 110,000 people are living with blood cancer or a related blood disorder in Australia today. By 2035, it is projected 275,000 Australians will be living with blood cancer or blood disorder.
  • The incidence of blood cancer continues to grow – over the past 10 years alone, the incidence of blood cancer has increased by 40%.
  • There is a 34% risk of an adult blood cancer patient who has contracted COVID losing their life – or a more than one in three chance of mortality[iv].