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Lymphoma - the cancer no one knows

World Lymphoma Awareness Day highlights the sixth most common cancer in New Zealand

Lymphoma - the cancer no one knows

Embargoed until Monday 15th September

On World Lymphoma Awareness Day, 15 September 2008, the Leukaemia & Blood Foundation (LBF) announce a 30% acceleration in the incidence of lymphoma in New Zealand over the last five years and data forecasts this will continue to rise over the next 5 years.

Despite this few New Zealanders have heard of lymphoma although it is the sixth most common cancer in the country affecting about 800 people every year. Certain types of lymphoma can kill in as little as six months.

Lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system, has an incidence rate four times higher than cervical cancer and kills more people than melanoma. We are all aware of the need for regular smear tests and sun protection, yet only 2% of New Zealanders know to act on the symptoms of this potentially fatal cancer.

Pru Etcheverry, Executive Director of the LBF, says "The increase in incidence of lymphoma is due partly to our growing and ageing population but this does not fully account for the disproportionate increase which reasons remain unknown."

Ms Etcheverry continues, "The growing figures are extremely disturbing given New Zealanders' apparent lack of awareness about the disease, which is why World Lymphoma Awareness Day is so vital in this country."

In research undertaken this month by the LBF shows 89% of 501 people surveyed could not correctly identify that lymphoma was a cancer of the lymphatic system and 94 per cent did not list lymphoma in the top of mind cancers. Only 2% could recognise the symptoms.

Because of the worrying number of New Zealanders being diagnosed with lymphoma the LBF are urging people to visit the website to learn about the symptoms of this cancer.

The symptoms of lymphoma can take the form of swollen, painless lumps in the neck, armpits, or groin. Other symptoms may include persistent fever, night sweats, rapid weight loss, trouble breathing or chest pain, weakness and tiredness for longer than two weeks. These symptoms can easily be dismissed as flu or glandular fever.

Ms Etcheverry says, "We know that with early identification and treatment, the majority of people with lymphoma can be treated successfully. The key is for patients and health professionals to recognise the symptoms so that early diagnosis can be made."

Dr Peter Browett, Medical Director of the LBF, agrees there is a lack of awareness and understanding of this form of cancer.

"Many people have not heard of lymphoma or even the lymphatic system despite the vital role it plays in the body. It is vital that anyone who is concerned about persistent symptoms such as swelling in the neck, underarm region or groin, weight loss and tiredness speaks to their doctor.

"Early diagnosis makes a huge difference in the ability to combat the disease. It's essential that the public is educated about lymphoma, and that the profile of this disease is raised," Dr Browett concludes.

For more information go to - it could save your life.


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