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Australia’s unknown cancer: Majority of Australians still in the dark about blood cancers despite being second most diagnosed and second highest cause of cancer-related death in Australia

Monday January 31, 2022

• 7 in 10 Australians unaware blood cancers combined are second most common cancer and second highest cause of cancer-related deaths in Australia.
• 4 in 5 Australians not confident in recognising main symptoms of blood cancer.
Leukaemia Foundation urges Aussies to make it their mission to defeat blood cancer and sign up to World’s Greatest Shave.

The Leukaemia Foundation is today releasing concerning new figures showing seven in ten (70 per cent) Australians are unaware that, when combined, blood cancers are the second most diagnosed cancers in the country and the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Australia[i].

The research also shows that almost six in ten (57 per cent) Australians are unaware that blood cancer sadly remains the most commonly diagnosed childhood cancer in Australia.

With a 40 per cent increase in incidence rates of blood cancers over the past decade, significantly higher than all cancers combined (23 per cent)[ii], the Leukaemia Foundation is today launching the 2022 World’s Greatest Shave campaign to raise awareness of blood cancer and its associated symptoms, whilst calling on all Australians to make it their mission to help defeat blood cancer by braving the shave.

“Today’s figures confirm that Australians are still in the dark when it comes to blood cancer. Unlike other cancers, there are no screening programs available to detect blood cancer early and no way to prevent it through lifestyle change. With four in five (78 per cent) Australians not confident they could recognise the main symptoms of blood cancer, the chances of missing a crucial diagnosis are worryingly high. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it can result in a delayed diagnosis and impact your chance of survival.”

“The first step to defeating blood cancer is raising awareness and making Australians aware of the symptoms. We know that the sooner a diagnosis occurs, the greater chance you have of beating your blood cancer,” Leukaemia Foundation CEO Chris Tanti said.

The most common blood cancer symptoms include recurrent infections, increased fatigue, night sweats, bone pain, unexplained weight loss, bruising and enlarged lymph nodes. 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.

“Blood cancer symptoms can be mistaken for the flu or even COVID-19, resulting in people delaying contacting their GP and potentially a delayed blood cancer diagnosis.

As we enter the next phase of the pandemic, as a community we’re being asked to recognise COVID-19 symptoms. Similarly, it’s important that Australians are aware of the common symptoms of blood cancer and contact their doctor if these symptoms don’t improve. It could save your life.”

“110,000 Australians are living with blood cancer right 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[iii],” Mr Tanti said.

For 24 years, World’s Greatest Shave has raised crucial funds to ensure the 50 Australians diagnosed with blood cancer each day have access to the right information and support they need to fight their diagnosis and live well. It also helps research scientists continue their search for better ways to diagnose and treat blood cancer more effectively. This simply wouldn’t be possible without the incredible fundraising efforts of everyday Australians signing up to shave, cut or colour their hair.

“With incidence of blood cancer continuing to rise, chances are you know someone who has been impacted. The Leukaemia Foundation is on a mission to raise awareness of blood cancer and defeat the disease and together with our brave shavers we believe it is possible to achieve our goal of zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035.”

“Even in the midst of a global pandemic blood cancer doesn’t stop, so neither can we. I urge all Australians to join us and make it their mission in 2022 to support the growing number of people diagnosed with blood cancer every day by signing up to World’s Greatest Shave,” Mr Tanti said.

Officially ramping up to ‘Shave Week’ between March 16-20, join the fight against blood cancer and register by downloading the app, signing up online at or call 1800 500 088 for more information. #WorldsGreatestShave #ShaveForACure #bloodcancer


Blood Cancer symptoms and what to ask your doctor:

Blood Cancer in Australia – facts and figures:

  • 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.

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%), melanoma (83%) and blood cancer (76%).
  • Almost seven in 10 (69%) Australians are not aware that when combined, blood cancers are the second most diagnosed cancers in Australia, seeing 50 Australians diagnosed every day.
  • Seven in 10 (71%) Australians are also not 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.
  • Almost six in 10 (57%) 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.
  • Four in five Australians (78%) aren’t confident they can identify the symptoms of blood cancer.
  • 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.
  • 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.

For a copy of the full research findings, please contact [email protected] 




Last updated on February 9th, 2022

Developed by the Leukaemia Foundation in consultation with people living with a blood cancer, Leukaemia Foundation support staff, haematology nursing staff and/or Australian clinical haematologists. This content is provided for information purposes only and we urge you to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis, treatment and answers to your medical questions, including the suitability of a particular therapy, service, product or treatment in your circumstances. The Leukaemia Foundation shall not bear any liability for any person relying on the materials contained on this website.