blood cancer awareness month

Blood Cancer Awareness Month: Spreading The Word

September is  Blood Cancer Awareness Month, a global initiative to increase understanding of the various blood cancers that affect people worldwide. This event not only raises awareness about these diseases but also promotes research efforts.

The month turns red, signifying a call to action for us to come together. We must connect with patients, families, healthcare professionals, and scientists to promote unity and support against this dangerous illness. Read on to learn more.

Featured in: September - Awareness Months, Days & Observances

History of Blood Cancer Awareness Month

doctor holding a red ribbon
Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), created by the de Villiers family in 1949, established Blood Cancer Awareness Month in 2010. The initiative coincides with Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, noting that blood cancers are among the most common types of cancer in children2.

Blood Cancer Awareness Month has become increasingly popular and has prompted various fundraising events, including the well-known "Light the Night Walk" campaign in 2012. These efforts have raised millions for research programs, which have helped to build progress and provide hope.

This monthlong event has played a crucial role in achieving essential milestones. For instance, In 2015, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society launched the "Beat AML Master Trial," marking a new era in the fight against blood cancers through the use of precision medicine. 

Blood Cancer Awareness Month is also a precursor to World Lymphoma Awareness Day1, held annually on September 15th. 

The Cause and Its Challenges

red blood cells
Photo by ANIRUDH on Unsplash

Blood cancer, also called hematologic cancer, is a serious health matter. It strikes directly at the heart of the body's defense mechanism—our blood cells—and impedes functions like carrying oxygen and fighting infections. 

It happens when the body produces excessive amounts of abnormal white blood cells. Scientists understand that these interfere with normal cells, weakening the immune system. They suspect that the possible causes of blood cancers include genetic mutations, exposure to harsh chemicals or radiation, or certain infections. 

Here are the most common types of blood cancer. Leukemia is characterized by the overproduction of abnormal white blood cells that impair the bone marrow. 

There's also Lymphoma that targets the lymphatic system, which is essential for warding off diseases. 

Lastly, Myeloma hits the plasma cells - a white blood cell variant that is crucial in combating infections.

Early detection of blood cancer is crucial. Here are its common symptoms:

  • Persistent fatigue
  • Frequent infections
  • Unexplained weight loss, fever, and rash
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Shortness of breath
  • Noticeably enlarged lymph nodes.
  • Joint or bone pain
  • Paleness (pallor)

Treatment for blood cancer can be challenging. Options include invasive procedures, chemotherapy, radiation, and stem cell or marrow transplants. Unfortunately, these may have side effects and can be financially burdensome for families. 

5 Facts On Why Blood Cancer Awareness Month Matters

Here are the latest numbers from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society:

  • Nearly 1.63 million people in the U.S. are either living with or in remission from blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma
  • In the U.S., a person is diagnosed with blood cancer roughly every 3 minutes, and sadly, one dies from it every 9 minutes.
  • Leukemia is the leading cancer type in children, making up 30.1% of all childhood cancer cases.
  • Between 2000 and 2020, blood cancer mortality rates showed a promising decline. Specifically, deaths from leukemia dropped 24.4%, lymphoma 40.6%, and myeloma 22.2%.
  • Blood cancer typically strikes at the median age of 68. For Hodgkin Lymphoma, it is even lower at 39 years old. From 2015 to 2019, each year saw an average of 61,816 cases diagnosed in US individuals 75 and older.

Efforts and Initiatives

providing support to others
Photo by Marlis Trio Akbar on Unsplash

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) plays a significant role in the fight against blood cancer. This charitable organization does not solely rely on monetary contributions for their efforts. They have also established a supportive community with blood cancer patients, providing them with hope and encouragement.

The World Health Organization (WHO) champions this awareness month on the global stage. For instance, the organization works toward providing better access to treatment, a lifeline to patients from all walks of life. 

Stand Up To Cancer, a dedicated non-profit, also makes considerable efforts to drive research innovation. Their mission is to fuel projects like clinical trials that could turn the tide against blood cancer. They launch awareness campaigns and educate the public about this relentless disease. 

Finally, Germany's DKMS has launched the game-changing "Delete Blood Cancer" initiative, boosting the global registry of bone marrow donors to an all-time high. 

This initiative has enabled life-saving transplants; every new registered donor is a potential lifesaver.

How to Get Involved and Support Blood Cancer Awareness Month

using your platform
Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

1. Spread the Word on Social Media: Use your platforms to raise awareness about blood cancer. Use relevant hashtags like #BloodCancerAwarenessMonth to join the broader conversation.

2. Join a Turn It Red Campaign: Light up homes, schools, or workplaces in red or wear red to show your support. 

3. Donate for Research: Give what you can to support research. Promote financial assistance initiatives to others if you can't donate.

4. Educate Yourself and Others: Understand more about blood cancer and share that knowledge with your community for early detection and treatment. Check out these resources from LLS.

5. Volunteer: Dedicate your time to directly support blood cancer patients. You can help in local hospitals, support groups, or community events.

Related Read: World Cancer Day, National Blood Donor Month 

Conclusion

Increasing blood cancer diagnosis rates underscore the need for a more robust response from all of us. Active participation can make a difference. By spreading awareness, donating, advocating, or volunteering, each individual helps push forward the fight against these diseases. 

We must do our part to boost their spirits and push the boundaries of research and treatment possibilities. Let us confront blood cancer head-on and build a world free from its shadow.

Blood Cancer FAQs

1. What is blood cancer?

Blood cancer affects blood cells, including the bone marrow and lymphatic system.

2. What are the common types of blood cancer?

They are chronic leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.

3. What are the risk factors for blood cancer?

These risk factors include genetic factors, exposure to certain chemicals, radiation exposure, and certain medical conditions.

4. What are the symptoms of blood cancer?

Common symptoms of blood cancer are fatigue, unexplained weight loss, frequent infections, easy bruising or bleeding, and swollen lymph nodes.

5. How is blood cancer diagnosed and treated?

Diagnosing blood cancer involves a series of tests, such as blood tests, bone marrow biopsy, and imaging tests. The treatment options for this condition may vary from patient to patient and often include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and stem cell transplantation. Your medical team will determine the best course of action based on the type and stage of the cancer.

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1

Gupta P. Guest Comment: Leukaemia & Lymphoma Awareness Month. Int Healthc Res J. 2019;3(6):189-190.

2

Ward, E., DeSantis, C., Robbins, A., Kohler, B., & Jemal, A. (2014). Childhood and adolescent cancer statistics, 2014. CA: a cancer journal for clinicians, 64(2), 83-103.

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

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