September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month, and all over the UK people are raising awareness for this common, yet relatively unknown, disease.
Blood cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the UK; there are currently 230,000 people living with blood cancer. Roughly 1 in 25 people will be diagnosed with blood cancer at some point in their lifetime, yet many of us don’t know the signs and symptoms or how to recognise them.
What is blood cancer?
Blood cancer is an umbrella term that covers more than 137 different strains and disorders. Anyone can get blood cancer at any time in their lives, and because of the individual nature of the disease, not everyone will exhibit all the same symptoms.
Three of the most common kinds of blood cancer are leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. Blood cancer is the most common cancer in children in young adults; leukaemia and lymphoma account for about 4 in 10 childhood cancers. In the western world, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia is the most common blood cancer affecting adults.
Recognising the symptoms
Knowing and understanding the symptoms of blood cancer can go a long way to making sure people are getting the lifesaving treatment they need – more than 10,000 patients are diagnosed with blood cancers during emergency admissions to the hospital each year because of ignored or misdiagnosed symptoms.
Many of the symptoms of blood cancer are vague and can be easily linked with other, less serious illness, particularly the flu. Common symptoms like persistent fatigue, night sweats and joint pain don’t always prompt a visit to the GP, and without a specific check you can do on yourself as with other types of cancers, some patients ignore symptoms for weeks in hopes they will just go away.
Keeping in mind a simple acronym can help you recognise if you or someone you love is exhibiting symptoms.
T – Tiredness and exhaustion
E – Excessive sweating
S – Sore bones and joints
T – Terrible bruising and unusual bleeding
Although these symptoms don’t always mean blood cancer, recognising the warning signs will go a long way to quicker diagnosis and treatment.
If you’d like to get involved in Blood Cancer Awareness Month, there are a number of different things you can do to help.
- Raise awareness – Download a T.E.S.T symptoms card and share it with family and friends to spread the word about blood cancer.
- Donate blood – People diagnosed with blood cancer rely on blood donations to keep them fighting fit. Donating is easy and can save lives – our tips for first time donors guide can help if you’ve never done it before.
- Register as a blood stem cell donor – The charity Delete Blood Cancer is aiming to get 2000 new names on the blood stem cell register this month. It takes just a few minutes and all you have to do is spit into a swab kit they send you in the mail; if you are a match, a simple procedure could save someone’s life.
- Donate to Anthony Nolan – Anthony Nolan is a charity that works to match donors with people who need lifesaving stem cell transplants. If you aren’t eligible for the register or are unable to give blood, donating a small amount to a charity like Anthony Nolan or spreading the word is an excellent way to help the cause.
Are you planning anything for Blood Cancer Awareness Month?