Blood cancer is the fifth most prevalent cancer in Wales, accounting for over 10% of all cancer cases diagnosed and the third biggest cancer killer.
During the five-year period 2013-17, there were a total of 10,350 incidences of blood cancer in Wales, an average of 2070 incidences per year.
Over 250,000 people are currently living in the UK with a blood cancer diagnosis; all of whom have been at an increased risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yet, despite these statistics, many people are still unaware of the symptoms to look out for to ensure an early diagnosis.
Blood cancer symptoms vary depending on the type of blood cancer, whether it's leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma, MDS, MPN or any other blood cancer.
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 bones, joints or abdomen (stomach area)
- Tiredness that doesn’t improve with rest or sleep (fatigue)
- Paleness (pallor)
Not everyone will have the same symptoms, and people may have symptoms that are not listed above.
It can also be hard to tell the difference between the symptoms of coronavirus and the symptoms of blood cancer. So Blood Cancer UK stress that it's important to know what to do.
They advise that if you have any symptoms that could be coronavirus, you must self-isolate straight away and get a coronavirus test as soon as you can. If your coronavirus test is negative, tell your GP about your symptoms as they could be caused by something else.
If your coronavirus test is positive, but the symptoms persist, make sure you tell your GP. The coronavirus symptoms may be masking something else, including blood cancer.
Most people who have symptoms described above 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. If you suddenly feel very unwell at any time, get medical help straight away by calling 999 or going to A&E.
Last year AbbVie, a research-driven biopharmaceutical company, held a virtual roundtable discussion with patients, clinicians, politicians and stakeholders to discuss the priorities for Blood Cancer patients in Wales and their subsequent report reflects a collective response to support the development of a meaningful cancer strategy on behalf of blood cancer patients in Wales.
There was strong consensus that the current Cancer Delivery Plan in Wales does not meet the specific needs of people living with blood cancer and that the next Cancer Delivery Plan presents an opportunity for the Welsh Government to lead the rest of the UK in developing a national approach which meets the needs of all cancer patients
I therefore call on the Welsh Government to act on these findings.
Cancer is cancer and every patient, no matter what type of cancer they are diagnosed with, deserves access to services and treatments which are going to provide them with the very best outcome.