Blood Cancer Awareness Month
Blood Cancer Awareness Month falls in September and is important in the fight against the third most fatal cancer.
What is the aim of Blood Cancer Awareness Month?
The aim of Blood Cancer Awareness Month is to raise awareness of the symptoms of blood cancers and educate people so they are better informed, which will hopefully lead to people being diagnosed earlier.
The symptoms of blood cancers are usually ignored as they are often confused for other illnesses such as flu and are left unexplored. Knowing the symptoms can save lives so Blood Cancer Awareness Month is extremely important in the fight against blood cancer.
Leukaemia Care have got a lot of activities going on during September including:
- A media awareness campaign to highlight the signs and symptoms of blood cancers.
- A ribbon appeal to encourage people to show their support and stick a ribbon on it.
- Encouraging people to join us on social media and share the information about symptoms of blood cancers with friends and family.
What is blood cancer?
There are many different cancers that come under the umbrella term “Blood cancer”. The main type of blood cancer include Lymphomas, Leukaemia and Myeloma.
There are two types of Lymphoma, which are Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (involves the Reed-Sternberg cells) and Hodgkin Lymphoma (that does not involve the Reed-Sternberg cells). Lymphoma is a cancer that effects the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of the human body’s immune system and helps fight infection. The cancer generally affects the lymph nodes, which are small bean shaped nodules that hold the lymphatic liquid that is transported around the body in the bloodstream.
The main symptoms of any lymphoma is the lymph nodes swelling abnormally. They can swell in any part of the body but the most common areas are around the neck and jaw, the armpits and the groin. This is because the lymph nodes are quite close to the skin and are more obvious to spot, compared to more deeper lying nodes, around the stomach for example.
The lumps are usually painless and they generally swell quite quickly. If they are deep lying then other symptoms could present depending on where the lymph node is situated. This can include chest or abdominal pain, bone pain, skin lumps and coughing or breathlessness.
Other symptoms associated with the swollen lymph nodes include fever, excessive night sweats, unexplained weight loss, fatigue and itching.
Leukaemia comes in two different forms with varying degrees of severity. Leukaemia is a cancer of the blood, which affects the white blood cells. There a two main types of white blood cells which are lymphocytes (these fight viral infections) and myeloid cells (fights bacterial infections, fights parasites, and stops the spread of tissue damage).
The two types of white blood cells can both be affected by leukaemia and can either be acute or chronic. Acute means the cancer is aggressive and grows quickly. Whereas Chronic Leukaemia progresses a lot slower and develops over many years.
All four have symptoms including pale skin, tiredness, breathlessness, frequent infections and unusual and frequent bleeding (e.g. nosebleeds or bleeding gums).
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia and Chronic Lymphoblastic Leukaemia have extra symptoms including high temperatures (fever), night sweats, unexplained weight loss and swelling or discomfort in the middle of the torso.
This list of symptoms are not exhaustive and more information on each type of Leukaemia can be found can be found on the NHS website.
Myeloma is a cancer that affects the Bone Marrow, which is the spongy substance inside bones that produces the body’s blood cells. This cancer does not cause lumps or tumours but the cells divide inside the bone marrow and which can damage the bone and stunt the growth of healthy cells. The most affected bones are the spine, skull, pelvis and ribs.
Myeloma doesn’t always show symptoms in the beginning, and is usually diagnosed by accident through a routine blood or urine test. However, the NHS suggest that the symptoms you should look out for are:
- a persistent dull ache or specific areas of tenderness in your bones
- weak bones that break (fracture) easily
- tiredness, weakness and shortness of breath (caused by anaemia)
- repeated infections
- less commonly, bruising and unusual bleeding – such as frequent nosebleeds, bleeding gums and heavy periods
Facts about Blood Cancer
- Someone is told they have blood cancer every 20 minutes in the UK.
- There are 4,712 deaths from leukaemia each year in the UK.
- There are 9,900 new cases of leukaemia each year in the UK.
- There is a 46% chance of surviving leukaemia for 10 years or more.
- Blood cancers make up around 1 in 10 diagnosed cancers in the UK each year.