Blood cancer – Do you know the signs?
September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month and a leading local cancer doctor is asking residents to familiarise themselves with the symptoms of blood cancer to help improve rates of early diagnosis and save lives.
Blood cancer does not describe a single condition, but rather a group of conditions, which affect the blood, bone marrow and lymphatic system (part of the immune system). These diseases are, unfortunately relatively common and every year around 25,000 in the UK are diagnosed with blood cancer. Recognising the signs and symptoms early is very important; however, symptoms can vary a lot and can make spotting them a bit tricky. Despite this, doctors are urging local people to learn what to look out for and seek help from their GP if they think there might be a problem.
The symptoms for the most common types of blood cancer include:
Leukaemia: Feeling tired or weak, bruising or bleeding easily, swollen lymph nodes (lumps in the neck, armpits, groin, or under the chin), swollen stomach, fever/night sweats, pain in the bones or joints and unexplained weight loss
Lymphoma: Swollen lymph nodes, fever/night sweats, persistently feeling tired or weak, itchy skin, unexplained weight loss, coughing, difficulty breathing, chest pain, increased alcohol sensitivity or pain the lymph nodes after drinking, swelling or feeling pain in the stomach
Myeloma: Weight loss, fevers and infections, frequent broken bones, bone pain, persistent thirst, frequent urination, nausea, constipation.
Dr Neil Smith, an award winning Cancer Research UK and Macmillan GP working across both East Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), said:
“Blood cancer can be difficult to diagnose and this is one of the reasons why it is such a serious problem. Often, blood cancer is only found in people once their illness has got to an advanced stage, but, if cancer is recognised earlier on, it is much easier to treat and potentially cure. Therefore, I would urge everyone to learn what the common symptoms of blood cancer are and to seek help if you have these, particularly if they are unexplained and persistent.
“Survival rates for blood cancer do vary, but there has been a significant improvement in recent years. There is a lot of help and support available for blood cancer, but for this to be more effective, it is important that people speak to their GP if they think the warning signs are present.”
“The CCG cancer team have also launched the “Let’s talk cancer” campaign to make cancer part of everyday conversations.”