Former leukaemia patient warns of 'vague' symptoms in bid to help others

ITV News Central Reporter Hannah Bechelet reports on a former patient who was diagnosed with leukaemia after experiencing headaches

A former leukaemia patient is urging people to recognise symptoms of the condition after undergoing special treatment following an unexpected diagnosis as a student.

Sophie Wheldon, who's from Solihull, was just 19-years-old when she was diagnosed with leukaemia.

She said it started off as intense headaches and neck pain and she went to the GP as she felt "things weren't right".

Her GP assumed that, as she was a student, it might be meningitis, but it came as a shock to all when it was discovered she had B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

The diagnosis of leukaemia came as a huge shock for her and her family but looking back she says she had a number of symptoms.

She told ITV News Central: "I had a chest infection that lasted for quite a long time and that was about a month before I was diagnosed."

'When I look back on it all, they were all little red flags'

Ms Wheldon adds: "I also had headaches and neck pain and when I went to the GP and I had quite a high fever, and when I look back on it all they were all little red flags."

She is now in remission but she wants others to know the symptoms so they can be treated early and recover too.

What are the symptoms of leukaemia?

Leukaemia is cancer of the white blood cells. Acute leukaemia means it progresses quickly and aggressively, and usually requires immediate treatment, according to the NHS.

Two leading blood cancer charities are teaming up for a campaign to highlight the main symptoms of leukaemia.

The four most widely-reported symptoms of leukaemia are:

  • Bleeding

  • Bruising

  • Fatigue 

  • Infections

If you don't recognise them then you are not alone as a recent survey by charities Leukaemia Care and Leukaemia UK showed that no one was able to name them all.

The two charities have teamed up and created a catchy campaign video with a parrot "parroting" on about the symptoms. 

Along with the main four the campaign focuses on - fatigue, bleeding, bruising and infections - fever, night sweat, bone and joint pain and swollen lymph nodes are all symptoms too.

The aim is to get people thinking of these symptoms collectively, and get medical help early - as leukaemia kills 5,000 a year in the UK.

The Chief Executive of Leukaemia Care, Zack Pemberton-Whiteley, said the charity does not want to cause worry but to educate people who are experiencing these symptoms to get help.

He said: "Many of the symptoms of leukaemia are non-specific and by that we mean, they're common to other related illnesses like the flu so it's not that people don't know the symptoms.

"It's that people don't know the symptoms could indicate leukaemia and often as a result of that people aren't worried necessarily about it, now we don't want to cause worry but we do want if people are experiencing these symptoms to get medical help."