World Blood Cancer Day is on 28th May, and marks an important opportunity to raise awareness of symptoms as well as how patients can be helped.
Someone is diagnosed with blood cancer every 20 minutes in the UK. With over 100 different types of blood cancer, there are around 240,000 people in this country living with the condition.
There are differences between solid tumour cancers and blood cancer, which is the UK’s fifth most common cancer and third biggest cancer killer.
A blood cancer patient could receive life-saving treatment from a stem cell transplant. By signing up to a group such as Anthony Nolan or DKMS, which I have been pleased to meet and support in Parliament, a stem cell donor could give a blood cancer patient a second chance of life.
One in 19 people will be affected by a blood cancer in their lifetime, and as common as blood cancer is, there is still a lack of awareness of its symptoms. These include fatigue, night sweats, repeated infections, itchy skin and unexplained weight loss.
More than a third of people with a blood cancer need to visit their GP three or more times with symptoms before being referred to hospital; more than for any other type of cancer. Greater understanding of the symptoms, among the medical community and the wider public, will see people treated more quickly with improved survival rates.
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Blood Cancer I would like to thank Simon Thomas, the former Blue Peter and Sky Sports presenter, for the work he has undertaken in establishing the Gemma Thomas Fund. This was launched last week in memory of Simon’s wife who died in 2017, just three days after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia.
Initiatives such as this will help towards vital research to improve the lives of blood cancer patients, and help ensure that families like Simon’s, and people in Crawley – myself included – who have seen how rapidly blood cancer can strike, will not suffer such an incomprehensible loss in such a devastating manner in the future.
Henry Smith MP