September is Blood Cancer Awareness month. The aim of the month is to raise awareness of the symptoms of blood cancers. This is because they can be unclear, and are quite often confused with other illnesses such as flu.
What is blood cancer?
Blood cancer is a type of cancer that affects your blood cells. Over 40,000 people are diagnosed with a blood cancer each year in the UK, and over 250,000 people are currently living with blood cancer.
Types of blood cancer
There are different types of blood cancer, including:
- myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS)
- myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN)
They each have different symptoms, treatments and prognoses.
Blood cancer symptoms include:
- Weight loss that is unexplained
- Bruising or bleeding that is unexplained
- Lumps or swellings
- Shortness of breath (breathlessness)
- Drenching night sweats
- Infections that are persistent, recurrent or severe
- Fever (38°C or above) that is unexplained
- Rash or itchy skin that is unexplained
- Pain in your bone, joints or abdominal
- Tiredness that doesn’t improve with rest or sleep (fatigue)
- Unusually pale complexion (pallor)
Most people who have symptoms described won’t have blood cancer. But it’s worrying to have symptoms you can’t explain, and important to find out what’s causing them, if only to set your mind at rest.
If you have just one symptom that you can’t explain, that goes on for a long time, or is unusual for you, book an appointment with your GP.
Questions to ask your doctor
If you go to get checked out, here are some questions you might want to ask your doctor:
- I’m worried about blood cancer – is that something you can rule out?
- Do I need a blood test?
- Do I need a lymph node biopsy?
- Do I need any scans?
- Do you need to take a urine sample?
- As my symptoms might be blood cancer, can I be referred for tests on the two-week suspected cancer pathway?
Your individual prognosis will depend on a number of things:
- your diagnosis, including the type of blood cancer and the results of specific tests
- the stage of the disease when you’re diagnosed
- your age and general fitness.
For more information on blood cancer visit www.bloodcancer.org.uk and to learn how you can raise awareness of the variety of blood cancers.