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Blood Cancer Awareness Month

September heralds the start of blood cancer awareness month. Blood cancer is a devastating disease. It is the fifth most common type of cancer in the UK with 41,000 people in the UK diagnosed with it each year. Despite being the fifth most common cancer, blood Cancer is the third deadliest cancer in the UK with 16,000 people dying of it each year in the UK.

It is incredibly common.

Currently, there are around 250,000 people living with blood cancer. That’s around 1 in every 16 men and 1 in every 22 women developing it in their lifetime and the risk of developing blood cancer increases as you age.

This is just adults.

In children, it’s a different story altogether. In children, blood cancer is the most common type of cancer. More than 500 children are diagnosed each year. The majority of this is with childhood leukaemia and the remaining fifth with lymphoma.

Blood cancer is an umbrella term encompassing many different cancers. Let's look at the five most common types.

The most common type is diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. This affects 5,500 people every year. Here B lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that fights infection, start to proliferate and form abnormally. These B cells build up in lymph tissue causing swellings throughout the body.

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia is the most common adult leukaemia in the west. It affects 4,700 people a year in the UK. Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia is a very slow-growing cancer. It affects the growth and development of lymphocytes in the bone marrow. Over time, this causes tiredness, unusual bleeding, swellings, and susceptibility to infections.

Myeloma is the third most common type of blood cancer. It affects 4,500 people every year in the UK. In this case, the bone marrow is affected, compromising an individual’s ability to produce blood. Anaemia follows with unusual bleeding and bone pain.

Chronic myeloproliferative neoplasms are the fourth most common blood cancer. It affects 3,900 people every year in the UK. Here, the bone marrow overproduces red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. This is a slowly progressing disease that causes bruising, unusual bleeding, and blurred vision, and makes the individual more susceptible to infections.

The fifth most common is marginal zone lymphoma. This affects 2,700 people each year in the UK. Marginal zone lymphoma is more common in men and affects those primarily over the age of 60. Marginal zone lymphoma emerges slowly from the uncontrolled proliferation of B lymphocytes that gather in the spleen, lymph nodes or the mesentery layers around lymphoid tissue. These cause swellings in these areas, weight loss, night sweats and fever.

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