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The Forgotten fifth: Shining a light on the unmet needs of people affected by blood cancer

Published on: 17 November 2021

We are calling for people affected by blood cancer to be treated equally to those with the four most common cancers in NHS policy making and decision making.

BCA Forgotten fifth campaign graphic3

As part of our work with the Blood Cancer Alliance (a group of 15 blood cancer charities), we conducted an evidence review earlier this year to explored the unmet needs of people with blood cancer across the UK. This shows that, while blood cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the UK (with lymphoma being the most common type of blood cancer), from awareness through to diagnosis, information, care and support, people living with blood cancer are less likely to see their needs fully met than patients with the four most common cancers (breast, colorectal, lung and prostate).

Specifically, we have identified that:

  • 30% of blood cancer cases in England are diagnosed after presenting to the NHS as an emergency, compared to 3% in breast cancer and 7% in prostate.
  • The number of blood cancer patients who had to see their GP five or more times before being referred for specialist treatment is double that of patients with other cancers in England.
  • 10% fewer blood cancer patients report that they fully understand their condition than those with solid tumour cancer.
  • The median impact on a blood cancer patients’ finances is £181 per month, compared with £120 in breast cancer and £52 in prostate cancer.

The Blood Cancer Alliance is today launching it’s The Forgotten fifth campaign calling for the Government and NHS leadership to give greater focus to the specific needs of people affected by blood cancer, and work to improve their experience when it comes to their diagnosis, care and treatment.

The first action the Alliance is taking is to ask NHS England to add data on blood cancer patients to the Cancer Data Dashboard, which is used as a key information source for cancer strategies. This will give NHS leadership an overview of the five most common cancers, and help inform an equal approach when it comes to understanding and considering the needs of people affected by blood cancer.


17 November 2021