Survey Shows Split Between Blood Cancer Detection: Symptom Evaluation vs. Incidental Finding

Only half of patients reported their blood cancer was detected while visiting a doctor after experiencing symptoms versus detection during a routine medical test or exam or while under the care of a doctor for another health condition.
BY Kristie L. Kahl
PUBLISHED April 30, 2019
Only half of patients reported their blood cancer was detected while visiting a doctor after experiencing symptoms versus detection during a routine medical test or exam or while under the care of a doctor for another health condition, according to survey results conducted by Health Union, LLC.

“The findings from ‘Blood Cancer in America 2019’ reveal that, for many people living with blood cancer, detection and diagnosis can ultimately catch them off-guard,” Olivier Chateau, co-founder and CEO of Health Union, said in a press release. “For this reason, it is important to have a community, such as Blood-Cancer.com, that can provide people with the information and emotional support they need as they go through their health journeys.”

In its newest survey, the company aimed to highlight the perspectives and experiences of patients and their caregivers affected by various blood cancers – including lymphoma (32%), multiple myeloma (29%), leukemia (27%) and other blood cancers (12%) – by surveying 1,713 patients, 180 current caregivers and 207 caregivers of patients now deceased. Surveys, which were conducted from Sept. 24, 2018, to Jan. 29, 2019, included 105 questions on diagnosis; quality of life and relationships; ongoing symptoms; symptom management and additional health conditions; health care provider engagement; and treatment usage, awareness and experience.

The survey showed that disease detection varied by cancer type. For example, patients with lymphoma were more likely to be diagnosed during a doctor’s visit after experiencing symptoms, while those with leukemia and less common blood cancers, such as myelodysplastic syndromes, were more likely to have their disease detected during a routine medical test or exam.

Similarly, the type of provider who diagnosed the cancer also varied by disease type: Those with lymphoma were more likely to be diagnosed by a general surgeon, while patients with leukemia were likely diagnosed by an emergency department physician.

Multiple opinions appeared to be more important across the board. For example, more than four in 10 respondents said they saw two health care providers before receiving an official diagnosis, with 25% seeing one and 20% seeing three. This, too, varied by blood cancer type: Patients with leukemia were more likely than those with lymphoma and multiple myeloma to only see one doctor before receiving an official diagnosis, whereas, those with lymphoma were more likely than those with leukemia or multiple myeloma to see three doctors before an official diagnosis.
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