How channelling your inner five-year-old can help spot the signs of deadly leukaemia

CHILDREN ask ‘why?’ a lot – peaking around age five when the questioning seems constant.

Why is the sea salty? Why do babies grow in tummies? Why are dogs kept as pets but not tigers?


Families are being urged to ‘channel their inner five-year-old’ to help spot the signs of leukaemiaCredit: Spot Leukaemia (Leukaemia UK and Leukaemia Care)

While perhaps a little irritating, experts say young kids could actually be onto something when it comes to spotting the signs of leukaemia.

By querying things – such as unusual health symptoms – people can catch the killer cancer early and give themselves the best chance of survival.

Around 10,000 people are diagnosed with the blood condition every year in the UK.

But only half live longer than five years after being told they have it.

Families are being urged to “channel their inner five-year-old” and ask “why?” if they clock anything out of the ordinary.

This could be fatigue, bruising, repeat infections and unexplained bleeding, which are all common potential signs of leukaemia.

Other symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Joint pain
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Numbness in the hands or feet
  • Heart palpitations
  • Concentration problems
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain
  • Back pain
  • Itchy skin
  • Weight loss

In a new film released during Blood Cancer Awareness Month, children are shown asking their relatives awkward, and sometimes embarrassing, questions.

“Mummy, why are you boobies floppy?”, “Grandad, why do you have a beard down there?”, “Granny, why are you making funny noises?, and “Nanna, why is your belly so squishy?”

The same kids then start questioning them on other matters, such as: “Nanny, why are you always too tired to play?”, “Granded, why are you poorly again?”, and “Grandma, why do you have bruises on your arm?”

If you’re experiencing anything unusual, particularly the symptoms highlighted above, then you should speak to your GP.

A spokesperson for the #SpotLeukaemia campaign said: “Children ask ‘why?’ a lot. We want you to ask it more.

“If you’ve noticed changes in yourself, like feeling weak or tired, bruises or bleeding that seems strange, or getting ill more often than usual, then it’s time to channel your inner five-year-old and ask, ‘Why?’

“It could be a symptom of leukaemia. Contact your GP surgery and ask for a blood test.

“Early diagnosis saves lives.”

Zack Pemberton-Whiteley, chief executive of Leukaemia Care, added: “Twenty seven people a day are diagnosed every day, just under 10,000 a year – we want to keep working towards helping people to know what to look for.

“Our new campaign video will no doubt bring smiles to the faces of those watching, maybe a laugh, but the message is incredibly serious.

“By asking ‘why’ and channelling your inner five-year-old, it might make you think twice when you, or someone you know, is feeling that bit more tired than usual, develops unexplained bruising or seems to have frequent or persistent infections.

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“If this sounds familiar, don’t be afraid to think ‘why’, remember the children’s questions and don’t delay in asking your GP for a blood test.

“It could make all the difference.”

What is leukaemia?

LEUKAEMIA is a cancer which starts in blood-forming tissue, usually the bone marrow.

It leads to the over-production of abnormal white blood cells – the part of the immune system which defends the body against infection.

There is no obvious cause, but it is more common in older people.

Symptoms are notoriously vague, and lab tests must be done to make a diagnosis.

But some of the most common subtle signs include:

  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Light-headedness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Frequent, more severe infections
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Small bruises
  • Bleeding gums or nosebleeds
  • Heavier periods
  • Generally feeling unwell

Leukaemia is treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, biological therapy and stem cell transplants.

There are around 10,000 new leukaemia cases every year in the UK.

Only half live longer than five years after being diagnosed.

Source: Leukaemia UK and Leukaemia Care


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