Every 90 seconds worldwide, someone is told they have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This means that almost half a million people will be diagnosed with this type of cancer every year![i] Despite this, very few people know about lymphoma. In fact, 73% of patients with lymphoma did not know what it was until they were diagnosed[ii].
Misdiagnosis is another major issue that affects the successful treatment of this cancer. According to a global patient survey done by the Lymphoma Coalition, a leading not-for-profit network organisation of patient groups from around the world, 62% of lymphoma patients aren’t diagnosed immediately[iii].
Eighth most common cancer in SA
Lymphoma is often only identified when all other diagnoses are ruled out. This is because there is no one screening test for this cancer[iv], coupled with the fact that the signs and symptoms of lymphoma are so broad and similar to that of influenza and TB, it becomes a matter of trial and error[v]. Correct diagnosis also relies on the doctor’s knowledge of this type of cancer.
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If that wasn’t enough to convince you, lymphoma is listed as the eighth most common cancer in South Africa according to the National Cancer Registry[vi], and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is rated the seventh most common cancer in both men and women in the country[vii].
This is why World Lymphoma Awareness Day (WLAD) was started 11 years ago by the Lymphoma Coalition. This event takes place annually across the globe on 15 September, providing a forum for doctors, nurses, patient support groups, as well as survivors and their families to join forces in a united voice.
This year, Campaigning for Cancer, a member of the Lymphoma Coalition, will be adding their voice to Lymphoma Coalition’s movement to get people talking about lymphoma. The “Let’s talk about lymphoma” campaign aims to increase awareness about this little known cancer, and inform the public, doctors, specialists and patients about this disease, its signs and symptoms, and how it affects the lives of thousands of people around the world.
Another focus of this campaign is a call to action for the media to help spread the word and encourage conversation about lymphoma. Many patients and healthcare practitioners are met with challenges when trying to diagnose and treat this cancer, and this campaign hopes to address these issues.With this in mind, Campaigning for Cancer will be hosting a live Twitter chat at 3pm – 4pm (1pm – 2pm GMT) on Tuesday, 15 September for the media, survivors and the public to share their thoughts and discuss this type of cancer.
“We invite the public to actively participate in this initiative by showing their support for World Lymphoma Awareness Day. Do your bit on the day by donating just 90 seconds of your time by commenting on posts and sharing information with your friends about this type of cancer. Help us get the message out there, and perhaps more people can be diagnosed and helped in time. You could be helping a family member or a friend,” says Lauren Pretorius, CEO of Campaigning for Cancer.
Treatable and beatable
Joining Campaigning for Cancer will be our “voices of lymphoma”. Chris Rossouw is one of these voices. Member of the legendary Springbok rugby team of 1995, Chris was diagnosed with Stage 3 lymphoma at the age of 38. Since then, he has passionately spoken out about lymphoma and how to deal with the impact of this disease.
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“Lymphoma is treatable and beatable and my advice to anyone going through this is to be assured that there is a wealth of information about this form cancer, and when caught early, it responds very well to treatment,” says Chris. Chris also wishes to encourage people to rather face their health concerns head on by getting the necessary checks and tests, after all, early detection led to a life-saving treatment and recovery for him.
Find us on the Twitter handle @campaign4cancer and use the hashtag #WLAD on the day to join the conversation. Pioneering cancer advocacy in South Africa, Campaigning for Cancer lobbies for the promotion and protection of the rights of patients and those affected by cancer with regard to policy, healthcare costs and healthcare delivery.
Campaigning for Cancer does this on an individual patient level – changing one life at a time – by providing people with the knowledge and tools to see their treatment process through; as well as on a larger scale by noting issues highlighted by these individual cases and lobbying for policy change that will affect all of society.
Campaigning for Cancer will serve all South Africans regardless of age, sex, gender, insurance or health status, marital status, disability, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, conscience, belief, education, or social and economic background.
Not always fatal
Our goal is to ensure that credible and reliable information and support regarding all facets of this disease and access to treatment during a patient’s journey are readily available to the patient and the general public, while promoting an protecting the rights of patients and those affected by cancer. Lymphoma is a term for cancers that develop in the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is part of the body’s immune defence system. Its job is to help fight diseases and infections. When the cells of the immune system, called lymphocytes, start growing abnormally, they can form a cancerous tumour[viii]. Being diagnosed with lymphoma is not always fatal, but catching it early improves overall survival rate[ix].T
There are two types of lymphoma – Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They can only be distinguished from each other microscopically but present very similar and almost identical symptoms[x].
The first symptom is often persistent but painless swelling on the lymph nodes in the neck collarbone area, under the arms or in the groin. These enlarged lymph nodes can cause a cough or difficulty breathing. They can also press against the organs in the abdomen, causing loss of appetite, constipation, abdominal pain or swelling in the legs.
Other symptoms include fever, night sweats, tiredness and thickened, dark, itchy areas of skin[xi]. Lymphoma is often confined to the lymph nodes and other lymphatic tissues, but they can spread to any other type of tissue almost anywhere in the body[xii].
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[i] Roche, (2015). Understanding lymphoma. [online] Available at: http://www.roche.com/understanding_lymphoma_infographic.pdf [Accessed 7 Sep. 2015].
[ii] Lymphomacoalition.org, (2015). World Lymphoma Awareness Day Member Toolkit 2015. [online] Available at: http://www.lymphomacoalition.org/docman-files/729-member-toolkit-2015-wlad [Accessed 7 Sep. 2015]. p. 4.
[iii] Lymphomacoalition.org, (2015). World Lymphoma Awareness Day Member Toolkit 2015. [online] Available at: http://www.lymphomacoalition.org/docman-files/729-member-toolkit-2015-wlad [Accessed 7 Sep. 2015]. p. 5.
[iv] American Cancer Society, (2014). Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. [online] Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003126-pdf.pdf [Accessed 7 Sep. 2015]. p. 18
[v] Rassel, K. (2015). Signs and Symptoms. [online] Lymphoma Coalition. Available at: http://www.lymphomacoalition.org/2012-10-16-15-49-43/signs-and-symptoms [Accessed 7 Sep. 2015].
[vi] CANSA - Cancer Association of South Africa, (2015). Fact Sheet on the Health Profile of South Africa and Related Information. [online] Available at: http://www.cansa.org.za/files/2015/02/Fact-Sheet-Health-Profile-of-South-Africa-Related-Information-Feb-2015.pdf [Accessed 7 Sep. 2015]. p. 7
CANSA - Cancer Association of South Africa, (2015). Fact Sheet on the Top Ten Cancers per Population Group
. [online] Available at: http://www.cansa.org.za/files/2015/05/Fact-Sheet-Top-Ten-Cancers-per-Population-Group-May-2015.pdf [Accessed 7 Sep. 2015]. p. 2
Lymphoma Research Foundation, (n.d.). About Lymphoma
. [online] Available at: http://www.lymphoma.org/site/pp.asp?c=bkLTKaOQLmK8E&b=6299689 [Accessed 8 Sep. 2015].
Health.nytimes.com (2007) Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin's - In-Depth Report - NY Times Health. [online] Available at: http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/non-hodgkins-lymphoma/print.html [Accessed: 9 Sep. 2014].
Medicalnewstoday.com (2009) What Is Lymphoma? Lymphoma Symptoms, Causes and Treatments. [online] Available at: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/146136.php [Accessed: 9 Sep. 2014].
[xi] Balentine, J. (2015). Lymphoma Symptoms and Signs. [online] eMedicineHealth. Available at: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/lymphoma/page4_em.htm [Accessed 8 Sep. 2015].
[xii] Balentine, J. (2015). Lymphoma Symptoms and Prognosis. [online] eMedicineHealth. Available at: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/lymphoma/article_em.htm [Accessed 8 Sep. 2015].