Awareness essential for tackling blood cancer
Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Blood Cancer Henry Smith explains the UK is a world leader in research but adds there is much more to do.
Many may be surprised to read that blood cancer is the third biggest cancer killer in the UK. As the Chairman of the newly formed All-Party Parliamentary Group on Blood Cancer, I will be using this month to raise further awareness of the disease.
There are in fact 137 different blood cancers, and around 230,000 people in the UK currently live with these diseases which include leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. Some of these are common, whereas some are extremely rare.
Research from the charity Bloodwise has shown that public awareness of blood cancer is low, and that patients often feel isolated and believe these cancers are seen as ‘separate’ from other cancers.
Changes to the Cancer Drugs Fund have led to some uncertainty for patients. The revised Fund will provide a maximum of two years of interim funding for a drug, if the National Institute for Health & Care Excellence (NICE) believe that further clinical data is needed before a final decision can be made on its future.
Such uncertainty is difficult for patients and their families. For patients on a first-line treatment, who would not know whether the second or third-line options will be available, this is considerable further strain on their family and wider support network.
Symptoms of blood cancer can be vague; in fact many of them, such as tiredness, are also common with colds. Lumps are a symptom of lymphoma, as with other illnesses. Bloodwise have more information on the symptoms on their website: www.bloodwise.org.uk. If you suspect any symptoms, do contact your GP.
The UK remains a world leader in blood cancer research. We can be proud of this work while recognising there is still much more to do.
The APPG’s officers include MPs who have spoken on this issue and led debates in Parliament; Colleen Fletcher, Jason McCartney, Jim Shannon, Nick Thomas-Symonds and Jess Phillips. Following a Westminster Hall debate in July, I am looking forward to supporting Blood Cancer Awareness Month, including at an event in Parliament to raise awareness among MPs on 14th September.
Work undertaken in this country has led to an improved understanding of blood cancer, and has helped make a number of life-saving and life-changing treatments available.
During Blood Cancer Awareness Month, we as a Group will continue to raise understanding of blood cancer, the various symptoms, the support that exists for patients, and the work that’s being done to beat the disease.
Henry Smith is the Conservative MP for Crawley.