Make Blood Cancer Visible
September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month, which aims to raise awareness about blood cancer - an umbrella term for cancers that affect the blood, bone marrow and lymphatic system.
The Irish Cancer Society is working with Chronic Lymphocitic Leukaemia Ireland (CLLI), Multiple Myeloma Ireland and Janssen Sciences Ireland to raise awareness and increase support for blood cancer patients across Ireland.
Blood cancer in Ireland
There are over 140 different types of blood cancers, usually organised into 3 main groups: leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. Blood cancers make up almost 1 in 10 of all cancers, with over 2,000 people in Ireland diagnosed with a form of blood cancer every year. Blood cancer is also the 4th most common cause of cancer-related death in Ireland.
Make Blood Cancer Visible
The Make Blood Cancer Visible campaign aims to generate more awareness of blood cancers and support those affected by the disease.
The journey for people living with blood cancers can be different to those with solid tumour cancers, such as breast, prostate and lung cancer. This is due to the many types of blood cancers and different treatment options available.
Acute, aggressive forms of blood cancer will require immediate treatment, whereas slow-growing blood cancers can be experienced as a chronic condition.
With some forms of blood cancer the person does not require immediate treatment or may never require treatment and instead will be called for regularly blood tests and appointments to monitor the situation in a period known as ‘watch and wait’ until the disease progresses, and treatment may become necessary.
Following treatment, people with blood cancer may enter a period of remission where the cancer cells are completely or partially gone and they are monitored closely to ensure the cancer does not come back.
Supporting carers of blood cancer patients
As part of the Make Blood Cancer Visible campaign, research was carried out to look at how carers - friends and family - are coping in providing care to their loved ones who have a blood cancer diagnosis.
The research reveals that 29% of carers are spending the equivalent of an average working week or more to care for a loved one living with cancer.
Of these people, 22% are also working a paid full or part time role. The research also showed that 91% of people living with blood cancer felt the care they received was of huge or high importance to them.
Despite the importance of their caring role in terms of time commitment, the research revealed that almost two thirds (63%) of cancer carers received no support on how to carry out their role.
Areas of training and support that would have helped them better prepare for their role included:
- Mental health or mindfulness training (46%);
- Information on support groups for carers (40%);
- Advice on how to combine caring activities with managing their own life and household (36%);
- Information on diet and exercise (28%) and
- How to get the most out of an appointment (33%) with a healthcare professional.
To address the issues raised in the research, the Make Blood Cancer Visible campaign launched a series of information videos to provide practical advice and support for people living with blood cancer and their carers. Developed along with healthcare professionals and blood cancer care experts, the videos address emotional wellbeing for carers and patients, diet and nutrition, and advice for carers.