‘A blood test saved my life’ says young cancer patient

“A simple blood test saved my life,” Nella Pignatelli tells the BBC, and she wants others to have one too if they don’t feel right. Nella, 24, was diagnosed with leukaemia 18 months ago after feeling fatigued and out of breath when walking, something she passed off as long Covid.

“I started a new job and just felt really tired all the time, but I associated everything that was happening to me with things that were going on in my life,” she says.

“When I had two nosebleeds that lasted an hour – it had got to the point that after three months of dealing with the symptoms, I was losing my mind.”

According to the charity Teenage Cancer Trust, 56% of those aged 18-24 would not know what five signs and symptoms they should look out for.

What are the signs of cancer?
The most recognisable ones within this age group are:

lumps, bumps and swellings
unexplained tiredness
mole changes
significant weight change

Half of the 2,000 people surveyed also admitted they’d put off going to the GP with health concerns, with many saying it was because they were too scared to find out what was wrong with them.

Other reasons given included it being too difficult to get an appointment and fears that they were wasting their GP’s time.

‘You know your body’

Nella went to her GP for a blood test, followed by a bone marrow test, which revealed she had acute leukaemia and needed immediate chemotherapy.

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

“You know your body better than anyone – I regret not seeking help sooner, because it would have meant I could have been treated quicker,” she says.