World Lymphoma Awareness Day will be held on 15th September around the world, in an effort to increase awareness of a disease which is set to increase in incidence by more than 30 percent between 2002 and 2011.
Dr Anna Williamson, General Manager Research Advocacy and Patient Care at lymphoma patient care organisation, the Leukaemia Foundation, says despite this significant projected increase, awareness of this type of cancer amongst the general population is very low. “Along with a general lack of awareness of lymphoma, many Australians are also unaware of the symptoms of the disease. Lymphoma can affect anyone, of any age, at any time so it is important people recognise the symptoms which, if treated early, can greatly improve their outcomes with this disease. “Symptoms can range from lymph node swelling around the neck, armpits and groin, a lack of energy, weight loss, fevers and night sweats, and itching without an apparent cause or rash. If people notice any of these warning signs it is important that they speak to their doctor,” she said. “The incidence of lymphomas has more than doubled over the past 20 years for no known reason and continues to rapidly increase in Australia. Projected figures show around 4,345 Australians will be diagnosed this year, however the cause of this cancer and related blood disorders remains relatively unknown.” Lymphoma is a blood cancer which develops in the lymphatic system and effects white blood cells and the immune system. There are two main type of lymphoma, Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Lymphoma is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in women and the fifth leading cause of cancer death in men in Australia, and is ranked fourth in terms of cost to the community with years of active life lost. Chris Stokes was diagnosed with an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in June last year. “I didn’t know what was happening to me. I had severe stomach pain and I was constantly tired and bloated. I finally went to the doctor they told me I had cancer. “My family and I were devastated. I underwent chemotherapy straight away which made me feel even worse. My doctor was great and talked me through all of my options. Finally, after several treatment cycles, I started to get better and feel like myself again. Now I’m in remission and I feel better than ever,” he said. Initiatives such as World Lymphoma Awareness Day (WLAD) run by the Foundation and other lymphoma organisations around the globe, seek to address the lack of awareness and help to build better understanding among the general community of the disease, the need for earlier diagnosis and immediate appropriate treatment. It is hoped this in turn will improve the outcome for patients. The Foundation will be holding special lymphoma educational events attended by patients, carers, family members and health professionals around WLAD across the country. “The provision of information, support and education to patients and families diagnosed with leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma or related blood disorders is one of the core services provided by the Foundation,” added Dr Williamson. Other free services available to lymphoma patients include emotional support, ‘home away from home’ accommodation near major hospitals, transport to and from treatment centres and practical assistance. World Lymphoma Awareness Day is an initiative of the Lymphoma Coalition which is made up of lymphoma patient organisations across the globe. The Leukaemia Foundation in Australia is a member. The World Lymphoma Awareness Day initiative is supported by an educational grant from Roche Products Pty Limited. (Source: Virginia Dell : Leukaemia Foundation : September 2007)