A lack of awareness of leukaemia symptoms and a belief that it’s a childhood disease has prompted charities to raise awareness of blood cancer symptoms during an awareness month this September.
A Survey carried out by YouGov Plc. on behalf of Leukaemia UK and Leukaemia Care, on the 04 and 05 of August this year found a lack of awareness around the cancer, prompting the charities to come together to take action and #SpotLeukaemia.
“Whilst it is true that leukaemia is the most common type of childhood cancer, leukaemia incidence rates rise sharply after the age of 55 and 38 per cent of all new diagnoses occur in those over 75,” Fiona Hazell, Chief Executive of Leukaemia UK said.
“The survey found that only 2 per cent of Brits think that leukaemia is most common in those over 75. The Spot Leukaemia campaign particularly wants to increase awareness among those who are over 65, as this age group is the most likely to be diagnosed with leukaemia.”
In fact, leukaemia can affect people of all ages, with the most common symptoms being: extreme tiredness (fatigue), bruising, unusual bleeding, repeated infections, fever or night sweats and bone or joint pain.
Joanne Risdale from Yate, called leukaemia a ‘ticking time bomb’ after being diagnosed with an aggressive acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) in 2019 at the age of 50.
After struggling with fainting and extreme fatigue and being initially diagnosed with iron deficiency, it wasn’t until she had a fall and was admitted to Southmead Hospital that tests found leukaemia.
She was immediately admitted to the Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre, remaining there for three months and having two rounds of chemotherapy.
Joanne said: “They told me they thought they were losing me a couple of times. The second round of chemo was delayed as I had an abscess on my skin which was an open wound near my stomach. The leukaemia did go into remission, and then I caught sepsis which meant I had to spend three months in a rehabilitation unit learning to walk again.”
In 2020, she went through two more founds of chemotherapy before having a stem cell transplant.
“They found a 10/10 match with a German woman, as none of my children were a good enough match,” said Joanne. “I felt very ill for a couple of days, but better after that. But then in the August I caught sepsis and was back in the rehabilitation unit for three months.”
But it still wasn’t over, with her leukaemia returning in February 2022 meaning she had to have yet more chemotherapy for five days once a month as well as donor lymphocyte infusions and platelet transfusions. A biopsy in June 2022 revealed the leukaemia had gone into remission.
“I’m on a lot of medication, but I am feeling fine,” she said. “But I do know I’m sitting on a time bomb. I cannot fault the hospital – they’ve been brilliant. All the staff have got to know me, and I get plenty of hugs when I’m there now! I have gone through three big rounds of tough treatment, but I set my mind up to stay positive physically and mentally and continue fighting.
“The symptoms were strange and I would say to people don’t ignore them. It’s made me realise life it short. I’d like to see a time when leukaemia is diagnosed much more quickly. And people need to know more about the symptoms and push for blood tests. Don’t be afraid to ask. And don’t be afraid to ask for support as it’s a long journey.”
For more information about leukaemia and help spotting symptoms, visit: www.spotleukaemia.org.uk