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New report highlights impact of COVID on blood cancer diagnoses

Thursday December 9, 2021

  • Victorian Cancer Registry report highlights 7% fewer diagnoses than expected in 2020, likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic delaying screening.
  • Leukaemia and lymphoma most common cancers in people aged under 25.
  • Leukaemia Foundation urges people to prioritise their health and check any symptoms with their GP urgently.

The Leukaemia Foundation has today welcomed Cancer Council Victoria’s report, Cancer in Victoria 2020 highlighting the scale and impact of cancer in Victoria in 2020.

The report shows as many as 7% of cancers went undiagnosed in 2020, likely owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns which impacted Victorians seeking advice and treatment for symptoms.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Chris Tanti said the decline in diagnoses was concerning and could mean around 333 Victorians could be living with blood cancer without knowing it.

“While many Victorians may be worried about the immediate COVID-19 threat, even in a pandemic it’s important for people to see their GP if they’re concerned about their health. Blood cancer doesn’t stop because of COVID-19.”

“Unlike other cancers, blood cancer can develop in anyone at any stage of life –in many cases blood cancer symptoms can be mistaken for infections like the flu or even COVID-19, which can mean people delaying visiting their GP or specialist, sadly leading to a delayed blood cancer diagnosis. We know that the sooner diagnosis occurs, the greater chance of survival,” Mr Tanti said.

The report also found that leukaemia and lymphoma continue to be the most commonly diagnosed cancers in Victorians aged under 25 in 2020, representing 38% and 20% of all cancers diagnosed in children under 14 respectively, highlighting the size and impact of blood cancers in young Victorians.

“These are sobering statistics, highlighting the need for up-to-date data so we can ensure all Australians, particularly our youngest, are receiving the support and treatment they need after receiving a diagnosis.”

Every day 50 Australians are diagnosed with blood cancer confirming its position as the second most diagnosed cancer in Australia and the second most common cause of cancer related deaths in the country[1]. While overall cancer incidence rates in Australia have been levelling out thanks to the introduction of national screening programs, improved early detection and improved treatments, unfortunately blood cancer incidence rates have risen by more than 50% since 2009.

“With more than 5,600 Australians losing their life to a blood cancer each year and more than 186,000 people expected to die from blood cancers by 2035, we’re imploring all Australians to book in that GP appointment they put off last year. It could save your life.”


Blood cancer signs and symptoms: Symptoms of all blood cancers can sometimes be subtle or even similar to other conditions, such as a flu. However, ongoing symptoms like recurrent infections, increased fatigue, night sweats, bone pain, bruising or enlarged lymph nodes should be immediately discussed with your GP or specialist. Early diagnosis can play a key role in surviving blood cancer, so it is critically important that you are examined and treated properly. If you or someone you love is diagnosed with blood cancer, reach out to the Leukaemia Foundation on 1800 620 420. Accessing our support is free of charge.