Doctors should order more blood cancer tests, MPs say

TV presenter Simon Thomas, whose wife died from a rare form of blood cancer last year, is calling for better training of GPs

Sky sports presenter, Simon Thomas


The Sky Sports presenter Simon Thomas says doctors only diagnosed his wife’s acute myeloid leukaemia three days before she died. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

The Sky Sports presenter Simon Thomas has revealed that doctors missed his wife’s blood cancer three times in the days before her death.

Thomas called for better training of GPs on the same day as politicians said doctors should order blood tests for any patient who shows symptoms of blood cancer.

Thomas’s wife, Gemma, died aged 40 in November, just three days after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), a rare form of the disease.

Gemma initially had flu-like symptoms and went to see a doctor three times over the course of six days before she was finally admitted to hospital, where her condition continued to deteriorate, despite intensive chemotherapy treatment.

Since then, her husband Simon has raised more than £30,000 for charity. The money has been divided between Maggie’s Centres, a charity which offers support to people affected by cancer, and a refugee project that Gemma had launched.

On Wednesday, Thomas tweeted: “Three times my wife Gemma went to the doctor in six days and three times she was sent home and told to rest.

“Four days after her final visit to the her GP she was dead. We have to help and train our GPs and to detect blood cancer earlier.”

Simon Thomas (@SimonThomasSky)

Three times my wife Gemma went to the doctor in six days and three times she was sent home and told to rest. Four days after her final visit to her GP she was dead. We have to help and train our GP’s and to detect #bloodcancer earlier. @bloodwise_uk is doing this. #hiddencancer https://t.co/V1uEz1HCLF

January 17, 2018

Simon Thomas (@SimonThomasSky)

Acute Myeloid Leukaemia took my wife Gemma and Ethan’s Mum just before Christmas aged only 40 years and just three days after being diagnosed. This is so important. @bloodwise_uk https://t.co/V1uEz1HCLF

January 17, 2018

Thomas, 44, has been tweeting and blogging about his grief following Gemma’s death from AML, which affects around 2,600 people in Britain each year.

Thomas said he doesn’t blame the doctors who initially saw his wife before she was taken to hospital, but has encouraged people to seek a diagnosis from medics if they continue to feel unwell.

Simon Thomas (@SimonThomasSky)

The darkness will hopefully not overcome. pic.twitter.com/umuBOT0TdW

January 2, 2018

The all-party parliamentary group on blood cancer said on Wednesday that many signs of blood cancer can be “misunderstood or misdiagnosed”.

In a new report, the group said that diagnosing blood cancer – such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma – can be “complex”.

Highlighting one patient group, MPs described how some elderly myeloma patients reporting symptoms of back ache and bone pain are told their symptom is “part of the ageing process”.

In order to improve early diagnosis rates, they called on GPs to immediately order a blood test for anyone presenting with one or more symptoms of blood cancer.

Symptoms of blood cancers can be similar to the symptoms of feeling “run down” or flu, such as fatigue, night sweats, weight loss, bruising and pain, they said.

The chair of the patient group, Henry Smith, an MP whose mother died from acute myeloid leukaemia in 2012, said: “Blood cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the UK and someone is diagnosed every 14 minutes.

“Delays in diagnosis can have a severe impact on an individual’s chance of survival, as well as on their quality of life.”

Commenting on the report, professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: ““Each type of blood cancer can present in a varied way and GPs will base their decisions around what diagnostic testing is most appropriate on the symptoms being displayed by, and the unique circumstances potentially affecting, the patient in front of us.

“Any decision to pursue opportunistic testing must not be undertaken lightly as GPs need a good scientific evidence base before they order any investigations.”

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