September marks Blood Cancer Awareness Month, which in 2021 comes after an incredibly difficult year and a half as people with blood cancer have sought to not only live with this condition but to do so during a pandemic and all the consequences and restrictions which this has brought.
Earlier this year as Chair of the Blood Cancer All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) I launched our latest inquiry which looks at Covid-19’s impact on blood cancer services.
Alongside the APPG on Stem Cell Transplantation the inquiry will focus on what is needed for blood cancer services to be able to recover from issues that have been caused or worsened by the pandemic.
The Government, NHS England, patient organisations, pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals are being invited to contribute, and perspectives of people directly affected by blood cancer will be used to inform the inquiry.
Evidence sessions started earlier this year and we have already heard about the psychological effect of Coronavirus on the blood cancer community, as well as the 15 per cent decline in stem cell transplants.
While much work has been undertaken to raise awareness of the symptoms of blood cancer, a new poll commissioned by Blood Cancer UK has found that more than half of British adults are not able to name any symptom of the condition.
When asked to spontaneously list what they thought were symptoms of blood cancer, more than half (56 per cent) said they did not know any. With blood cancer being the third biggest cancer killer in the UK it is vital that awareness is raised.
Blood cancer symptoms such as breathlessness, tiredness and a fever may also be confused with Covid-19 and potentially left undiagnosed.
Other symptoms include bruising, weight loss, pain, repeated infections, lumps and night sweats.
Too many people are waiting too long to have their diagnosis confirmed. Approximately one third of people with blood cancer see their GP three or more times before diagnosis, which is more than for any other type of common cancer. Additional support for GPs to help them identify blood cancer symptoms will go some way to addressing this issue, particularly when symptoms are found in what may appear to be an unrelated health issue.
Early diagnosis can be vital in treating blood cancer and there is real concern that the pandemic has led to people putting off going to see their GP, with this having an impact on diagnosing cancer as early as possible.
If you have persistent and unexplained symptoms, please make an appointment with your GP.
Henry Smith MP