Eden Taylor-Draper's sister discusses blood cancer symptoms
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Organisations like Lymphoma Action (LA) help in this regard. Releasing a statement to coincide with the awareness drive they listed the first signs of lymphoma, signs which they say can be easily missed, but also depend on the type of lymphoma in question.
Common symptoms of the condition include:
• Swollen lymph nodes
• Unexplained weight loss
• Drenching night sweats and fevers
• Difficulty getting over infections.
They added: “Additional symptoms depend very much on the type of lymphoma and where the lymphoma is in the body. High-grade lymphomas are usually more aggressive and so may show symptoms more quickly, whereas low-grade lymphomas have more of a slow progression so can go undetected for years with very mild symptoms such as tiredness.”
One of the main difficulties of diagnosing blood cancer is that these symptoms can appear in other conditions. LA explained further: “Because many of the symptoms of lymphoma can mimic other health issues, diagnosing lymphoma can be a challenge for a medical practitioner. It is useful if you keep a note of your symptoms and how they’re affecting you so that your GP can see how often and how severe your symptoms are and keep going back to your GP, otherwise they may assume the symptoms have resolved. GPs will keep investigating if problems persist.”
However, in some cases, these symptoms can be signs of genuinely less serious conditions which do not require the same level of treatment as blood cancer.
LA added: “Many other medical issues can have similar symptoms to lymphoma; swollen lymph nodes can be due to infections, fatigue and sweats can also be related to the menopause, diabetes, or thyroid problems.
Who is most affected or at risk of developing lymphoma?
Unlike other cancers, blood cancer is not related to lifestyle factors or behaviours, it can affect anyone at any age depending on the type of blood cancer. For example, those with Hodgkin lymphoma are often diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40.
While the specificities are essential with regard to a deeper knowledge of blood cancer, what is more important is the generalities, the awareness of it in the first place. In this area, the British public would appear to be lacking.
How do you know?
Ahead of blood cancer awareness month, Blood Cancer UK conducted a survey of members of the public to find out how many of them knew about the symptoms of blood cancer.
Of the 2,230 surveyed, over 55 percent of them could not name a single symptom of the condition. Meanwhile, only 25 percent said they would consult their GP if they had the main symptoms of the disease.
Blood Cancer UK’s Kate Keightley said: “It’s extremely concerning to continue to see such low public awareness of the symptoms. Sadly, symptoms such as night sweats and unexplained tiredness, weight loss and bruising can sometimes be dismissed or downplayed, with devastating results.”
Keightley added: “We fear many people might also be confusing breathlessness, a fever and tiredness with COVID-19 and cases are being left undiagnosed. At the moment, we know that too many people are being diagnosed late, which often reduces the chance of survival, so it is so vital people get symptoms checked out as soon as possible.”
This is one of the concerns among those who work in this area of cancer care, that symptoms of blood cancer can sometimes be ignored and mistaken instead for other conditions.
Keightley added: “If you have symptoms that cannot be explained and are persistent, you should urgently make an appointment with your GP.”
Symptoms of blood cancer according to the NHS include:
• Skin looking pale or “washed out”
• High temperature,
• Sweating a lot
• Losing weight without trying
• Frequent infections
• Unusual and frequent bleeding
• Easily bruised skin
• Flat red or purple spots on the skin
• Bone and joint pain
• A feeling of fullness or discomfort in your tummy
• Swollen glands in your neck, armpit or groin that may be sore when touched.
The NHS recommend that a doctor should be seen if you or your child have the symptoms of acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), one form of blood cancer.
While these symptoms may cause concern, the NHS cautions: “Although it’s highly unlikely that AML is the cause, these symptoms need to be investigated and treated promptly.”
In common with other forms of cancer, blood cancer is caused by a mutation in cells. The NHS explained: “The mutation causes the stem cells to produce many more white blood cells than are needed.
“The white blood cells produced are still immature, so they do not have the infection-fighting properties of fully developed white blood cells. As the number of immature cells increases, the amount of healthy red blood cells and platelets decrease, and it’s this fall that causes many of the symptoms of leukaemia.”
While the intricacies of how blood cancer is caused may be a fascination, they are as nothing compared to the ramifications if the symptoms are not spotted in time.
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