Over 65s and Leukaemia: Leukaemia Care x OPAAL

Why we need to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of leukaemia in the 65+ community

Contrary to popular belief, nearly 65% of all leukaemia cases are diagnosed in people aged 65 and over; leukaemia is not just a childhood disease.  Despite this statistic, older patients are less likely to know that leukaemia is a type of cancer. In fact, 740 deaths of people over the age of 65 could be prevented each year if the UK survival rates for leukaemia matched the best in Europe.

That’s why this September, for Blood Cancer Awareness Month, Leukaemia Care is teaming up with OPAAL to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of leukaemia in the 65+ community as part of Leukaemia Care’s Spot Leukaemia campaign and the launch of Opaal’s Advocacy Checklist.

Why is leukaemia hard to spot?

 Leukaemia can be hard to spot because the signs and symptoms are common to other unrelated illnesses. This is especially true for people aged 65 and over as they may have additional complex health needs, making it harder to distinguish potential cancer signs and symptoms from other health issues.

The most common symptoms in the 65+ are:

  • Fatigue
  • Bruising or bleeding
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Feeling weak or breathless
  • Fever
  • Weight loss


Why do we need early diagnosis?

Early diagnosis saves lives. Leukaemia patients diagnosed via the emergency route will suffer worse outcomes, including lower survival rates, fewer treatment options and a greater risk of serious side effects.

Why do older people need advocacy?

GPs are twice as likely to refer older patients as a non-urgent referral (i.e. cancer was not suspected) and due to the vague and non-specific nature of leukaemia symptoms, leukaemia presentation can often get confused with signs of ageing or other pre-existing health conditions.

Why now?

Given the recent impact of COVID-19 on the haematological cancer pathway, spotting leukaemia and advocating for older people is more important now than ever. In England, across April 2020-March 2021 there have been around 2,400 fewer suspected haematological cancer referrals – that’s 11% lower than pre-pandemic levels.

That’s why Leukaemia Care and OPAAL are teaming up this Blood Cancer Awareness Month to help you Spot Leukaemia in the 65+ community.

Spread the word. Share the symptoms. Spot leukaemia early.

Get involved in #SpotLeukaemia this September www.spotleukaemia.org.uk