Thursday, October 1, 2009

This needs to be taken seriously

World Lymphoma Awareness day fell in the middle of last month. We at the LBF mark this day by our many activities directed at raising awareness of this little known, but increasingly prevalent cancer.

We sure do have our work cut out for us in terms of raising awareness. Knowledge about this cancer does need to improve.

And the attentiveness needs to be raised at all levels. The public need to know when to take action with persistent flu-like symptoms they may be experiencing. GPs need to recognise, or at least be suspicious of this cancer and have lymphoma on their radar. Policymakers in health need to have information about this cancer in their sites so that cancer control strategies can be worked on. Namely, quicker diagnosis, funded access to innovative and highly effective treatments, access to diagnostic, staging and monitoring tools such as PET* scanners, we still don’t have even full access one of these in New Zealand … Australia has 12.

So what is the upshot of things as they stand? Combined, the blood cancers -leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma - and closely related conditions number around 2,200 newly diagnosed patients each year. This is very close in number to cancers that have a high public awareness factor to them such as breast, prostate and lung cancer, regrettably bowel cancer is leading in this numbers race that no one would want to be in.

Some New Zealand lymphoma facts
- lymphoma is the most commonly occurring cancer in 15-24 year olds
- more people die of lymphoma every year than melanoma
- lymphoma is four times more prevalent than cervical cancer
- lymphoma is rising in incidence in as it is in most western countries
- lymphoma alone is the 6th most common cancer

So why is it such a challenge to get this into the consciousness?

Well we are one of the lesser known, and smaller, health not-for-profits. This is clearly not determined by the size of the issue we deal with. Our challenge is to increase knowledge about these cancers and conditions so that the issues that surround them will be taken as seriously by health authorities and those that can affect outcomes for patients.

*positron emission tomography