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Referral to a specialist

When GPs refer people to see an acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) specialist.

Seeing your GP

It can be hard for GPs to decide who may have cancer and who might have a more minor condition. For some symptoms, your doctor may ask you to wait to see if the symptoms get better or respond to treatment, such as antibiotics.

There are guidelines for GPs to help them decide who needs a referral.

Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist within 2 weeks if you have symptoms that could be due to acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. This is called an urgent referral.

A blood specialist is called a haematologist.

Your GP might do a blood test. If the results show signs of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia you should be referred immediately to a haematologist.

NICE guidelines for urgent referral

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has produced guidelines to help GPs decide who needs to see a specialist for suspected acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), and how soon they should see them. 

According to the guidelines, if you're an adult you should be referred for an urgent full blood count, within 2 days if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • look unusually pale
  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • unexplained high temperature (fever)
  • unexplained infections that won't go away or keep coming back
  • swollen lymph glands
  • bruising or bleeding for no reason
  • red or purple spots on your skin
  • An enlarged spleen or liver on examination

If you're a child aged 0-15 years or a young person aged 16-24 years, your GP should refer you immediately - within a few hours - to a specialist if you have:

  • unexplained red or purple spots on the skin
  • an enlarged liver or spleen on examination

If you're a child or young person, your GP should offer you an urgent full blood count within 2 days if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • look unusually pale
  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • high temperature (fever)
  • infections that won't go away
  • swollen lymph glands
  • bone pain that won't go away
  • bruising or bleeding for no reason

Some of these symptoms can be caused by other less serious medical conditions and do not always mean that you have acute leukaemia.

The doctor’s experience helps them to work out who may have a serious illness and who is more likely to have something more minor that will go away on its own. Your doctor will take into account whether you have any of the risk factors for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

If you are worried

If you feel your GP is not taking your symptoms as seriously as you'd like, print this page and take it along to an appointment. Ask your GP to talk it through and then decide together whether you need to see a specialist.

If you see a specialist they will examine you and do several tests. There is information about the type of tests you may need in the diagnosing womb cancer section.

Remember most people with one or more symptoms of ALL don't have leukaemia. But it's important to get any symptoms checked out by your GP.

Information and help

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