Lymphatic Cancer Awareness Week takes place from 10 to 16 September, and aims to raise awareness of lymphoma, the UK’s fifth most common cancer.
Everyone knows about breast cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer… anything with cancer in the title. But not many people know about lymphatic cancer as it is usually referred to as “lymphoma” which doesn’t have cancer in the title.
The Lymphoma Association, the UK’s only specialist charity which provides information and support to anyone affected by lymphoma, is using the week as an opportunity to raise awareness of the disease and its most common symptoms.
Lymphomas are cancers of the lymphatic system, which is part of the body’s immune system. There are many different types of lymphoma, although they are broadly categorised as Hodgkin or non-Hodgkin lymphoma. I was diagnosed in February 2010 with stage 4a Nodular Sclerosis Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Lymphatic cancer can occur in both men and women at any age, but is most common in people over 55. It is also the most frequently diagnosed cancer in the under-30s. I was 28 at diagnosis. I had people say to me “Oh you’re so young to have cancer.”
More than 75,000 people in the UK are living with lymphoma and over 14,000 people are newly diagnosed every year. See, not as uncommon as you might think.
The most common symptom of lymphoma is a painless lump or swelling, often in the neck, armpit or groin. Other common symptoms include excessive sweating (especially at night), fevers, unexplained weight loss, unusual tiredness, persistent itching, a cough or breathlessness and abdominal pain or diarrhoea. The only symptom I had is one that isn’t listed here. My symptom was alcohol induced pain. I would literally have a few sips of wine and would get the most intense pain in my right shoulder, I would have to go and lie down and have a cry, it would hurt that much. Apparently this symptom is quite a rare one; and I’m not even sure if anyone really knows why it happens. If anyone can shed any light on it, I’d be really interested to know.
Stage 4 cancer sounds quite scary, and believe me, it really was, but luckily Hodgkin’s Lymphoma does have quite a good cure rate, and now I’ve been in remission for almost two years, (even though i had a scare when I was pregnant) I think I might be finally starting to believe that i might just be okay! Just keep your fingers crossed for a little while longer!
Sally Penrose, Chief Executive of the Lymphoma Association, said: “Although lymphoma is the UK’s fifth most common cancer, many people haven’t heard of it until they or a loved one are diagnosed. We are trying to change this, so that people will go to their GP straight away if they experience any lymphoma symptoms over a period of time.”
As well as raising awareness of lymphoma, the Lymphoma Association has a freephone helpline, free patient information sheets and booklets, a website with an online chat room and forums, support groups across the country, a buddy scheme which puts anyone touched by lymphoma in telephone or email contact with volunteers who have had similar experiences and conferences for patients and health professionals.
If you have been affected by lymphoma and want more information, visit www.lymphomas.org.uk or call the Lymphoma Association on 0808 808 5555.