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Symptom recognition vital to help reduce lymphoma

15 September 2005

Symptom recognition vital to help reduce lymphoma deaths
- Sixth most common cancer still amongst least understood

15 September 2005 – The Leukaemia & Blood Foundation (LBF) wants people to give greater consideration to persistently enlarged lymph nodes, possibly associated with flu-like symptoms or weight loss, to help reduce deaths from lymphoma, a cancer of the blood and immune system. Early diagnosis of lymphoma gives patients the best possible chance of survival and awareness of the common symptoms is a vital first step.

New Zealand’s sixth most commonly diagnosed cancer1 remains among the least known or understood2. People with lymphoma commonly experience painless swelling in the neck, armpit or groin, night sweats, recurrent fevers, tiredness, unintentional weight loss and generalised itching. People often attribute these symptoms to illnesses like flu or glandular fever which makes them more likely to ignore the symptoms and potentially start treatment late.

LBF Executive Director Pru Etcheverry stressed the importance of awareness of a disease which can kill people in as little as six months. “In New Zealand in 2001 lymphomas were responsible for the deaths of more people than malignant melanoma1 and yet few people have heard of lymphoma or understand it.

“In research undertaken recently only 9% of 500 New Zealanders surveyed could name lymphoma as a type of cancer and less than 1% considered lymphoma as a possible cause of the most common symptoms3. The LBF is committed to improving understanding of lymphoma and ensuring people know support and information is available through our organisation.”

Lymphoma can occur in all ages, but is most common in people 50 years and over despite only 29% of people in this age range identifying it as a type of cancer. The incidence of lymphoma appears to be rising with New Zealand registrations increasing from more than 600 people in 2000 to more than 700 in 20021.

Ms Etcheverry says, “Access to reliable and accurate information through the LBF is extremely important for patients. We also provide emotional support through our patient support coordinators for people dealing with their illness and treatment and getting back to a normal life.”

Medical Director for the LBF Dr Peter Browett says patients that are worried they may have lymphoma should see their GP. “Most patients are distressed when they find out they have lymphoma and are understandably frightened as they often don’t know what it is. In many cases patients don’t realise how effective treatment is and how good the outlook can be.”

People affected by lymphoma can visit the LBF website www.lymphoma.org.nz for more information. Alternatively phone 0800 15 10 15 for a booklet on lymphoma or to speak with a LBF patient support co-ordinator.

ENDS.

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