2015 – Risk factors and time to symptomatic presentation in leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma

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Authors: D. A. Howell, F. Warburton, A.-J. Ramirez, E. Roman, A. G. Smith and L. J. L. Forbes
Date: 2015
Link: https://www.nature.com/articles/bjc2015311

Abstract

Background:

UK policy aims to improve cancer outcomes by promoting early diagnosis, which for many haematological malignancies is particularly challenging as the pathways leading to diagnosis can be difficult and prolonged.

Methods:

A survey about symptoms was sent to patients in England with acute leukaemia, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Symptoms and barriers to first help seeking were examined for each subtype, along with the relative risk of waiting >3 months’ time from symptom onset to first presentation to a doctor, controlling for age, sex and deprivation.

Results:

Of the 785 respondents, 654 (83.3%) reported symptoms; most commonly for NHL (95%) and least commonly for CLL (67.9%). Some symptoms were frequent across diseases while others were more disease-specific. Overall, 16% of patients (n=114) waited >3 months before presentation; most often in CML (24%) and least in acute leukaemia (9%). Significant risk factors for >3 months to presentation were: night sweats (particularly CLL and NHL), thirst, abdominal pain/discomfort, looking pale (particularly acute leukaemias), and extreme fatigue/tiredness (particularly CML and NHL); and not realising symptom(s) were serious.

Conclusions:

These findings demonstrate important differences by subtype, which should be considered in strategies promoting early presentation. Not realising the seriousness of some symptoms indicates a worrying lack of public awareness.

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