Cancer scares us all, regardless of age, gender, and other demographics. It’s the ultimate in non-discriminatory disease. Of course, there are high-risk activities such as poor diet, lack of exercise, and smoking, but anyone can get cancer. We tend to think of cancer as infecting an organ such as the brain, breast, lungs, liver, and skin. Yet there is also blood cancer.
Our blood is a complex system comprising many parts. Each is vital to our survival. White blood cells are required for injury repair, red blood cells carry oxygen around the body, plasma produces antibodies which fight infection, white blood cells are also the travelling cells of the immune system, and platelets form clots. But the blood system is not just the physical substance of blood. There is also the bone marrow which produces blood cells, and the lymphatic system which is part of the immune system and the circulation.
What Are the Different Types of Blood Cancer?
You may be surprised to learn of around 140 different types of cancer that infect the parts of the blood system discussed above. Each type may infect a different part of the system. Over 34,000 people are diagnosed with blood cancers every year in the UK. September is the month that our cancer charities focus on them and the conditions with which they are living.
• Leukaemia: This is the first type that people consider when discussing blood cancer, but it’s not the only one. Common in children and older people, it begins in the bone marrow and infects the white blood cells.
• Lymphoma: This comes in two types – Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s. Both infect the lymphatic system. Hodgkin’s type has a specific type of cell not present in non-Hodgkin’s. The types are treated differently.
• Myeloma: This is where cancer infects the blood plasma, making fighting off infection difficult.
• Myelofibrosis: This is a rare cancer condition that manifests in the bone marrow, making the production of red blood cells problematic.
Most people know these types but there are many others too. This September, why not help in the research and treatment of these conditions?
This Year’s Campaign
This year’s focus for Blood Cancer Awareness Month is looking for the signs of blood cancer. Identifying signs for any type of cancer can be tricky; it’s well known that early identification and intervention is the key to improving survival rates through improved treatment. The problem with blood cancers is that symptoms are not immediately obvious. Some manifest themselves slowly while others initially point to another problem.
Symptoms of leukaemia include fever, glandular problems (such as swelling) in the throat and armpits which do not immediately point to leukaemia. The patient’s first thought will no doubt be to assume they have flu. Eventually, the patient will bleed instead of bruise over. Menstruation in women is heavy and painful; both genders may find they bleed from the rectum.
The early symptoms of lymphoma are similar to adult leukaemia. Other symptoms include swelling in the lymph nodes, inexplicable weight loss, appetite loss, fatigue and heightened sensitivity to alcohol – all of which could be mistaken for flu.
How You Can Get Involved
The most obvious way to get involved in Blood Cancer Awareness Month is to donate to one of the many blood cancer charities based in the UK. The fight back against cancer is more than about making donations today. Awareness is an important part of saving lives too. That’s why the various charities want you to spread your support onto social media. Using #BeBloodCancerAware #BloodCancerAwarenessMonth, you may be able to save somebody’s life by simply helping to spread the word about the symptoms of these various diseases.