Decorative image

Referral to a specialist

Your GP should arrange for you to have a blood test or see a blood specialist if you have symptoms that could be due to acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). Depending on your symptoms and other factors, this might be an urgent referral.

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.

UK referral guidelines

There are guidelines for GPs to help them decide who needs to have a blood test and who needs to be a referred to see a specialist. This is usually a blood specialist called a haematologist.

Most of the UK nations have targets for suspected leukaemia. For example, you might have blood tests very urgently within 2 days. Or you may see a specialist immediately (within a few hours). These time frames are not included in Scotland guidance. But wherever you live, you are seen as quickly as possible.

These guidelines vary slightly between the different UK nations. The following is a summary. 

Referral for leukaemia

Adults over 24 years should be referred for a full blood count blood test if they have any of the following:

  • 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
  • unexplained petechial rash (red and purple spots on the skin)
  • an enlarged spleen or liver on examination

The GP should then refer them to a blood specialist if blood test results show that they might have leukaemia.

The GP should refer children and young adults (under 24 years) immediately to a specialist if they have either:

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

The GP should offer a very urgent full blood count test to children and young adults if they have any of the following:

  • look unusually pale
  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • a high temperature (fever)
  • unexplained infections that won't go away
  • swollen lymph glands
  • bone pain that won't go away and can't be explained
  • bruising or bleeding for no reason
Remember most people with one or more of these symptoms don't have leukaemia. But it's important to get any symptoms checked out by your GP.

If you're still worried

Sometimes you might feel that your GP is not concerned enough about your symptoms. If you think they should be more concerned, print this page and the symptoms page. Ask your GP to talk it through with you. Then you might be able to decide together whether you should see a specialist.

Information and help