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Blood-cancer awareness month: Nine key signs of leukaemia

Blood tests could predict the future risk of leukaemia, a study suggests (Ben Birchall/PA Archive)
Blood tests could predict the future risk of leukaemia, a study suggests (Ben Birchall/PA Archive)

Every year throughout September, the world comes together to mark Blood-Cancer Awareness Month.

It often sees a host of events planned to educate the public on the variants of the illness and its treatments.

This year, Blood Cancer UK is encouraging the general public to raise awareness by using the hashtag #SayBloodCancer.

What is blood cancer?

Blood cancer is a type of cancer that affects your blood cells. There are four types of blood cancer: leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma, and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS).

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Although there are many treatments for these cancers, the deadliest is a subtype called acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), which can affect people of all ages – while some forms are more common in children. This form of cancer involves the white blood cells, produced in excess in bone marrow.

Traditionally, it is treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy or, in severe cases, stem-cell transplants. However, there is currently no cure.

But, as the best cure is prevention, the earlier cancer is spotted, the easier it is to treat.

What are the key signs of leukaemia?

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms are often “vague and not specific” and may resemble the flu. It can also be detected through blood tests.

The following symptoms are common signs of blood cancer:

  • Fever or chills

  • Persistent fatigue, weakness

  • Frequent or severe infections

  • Losing weight without trying

  • Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen

  • Easy bleeding or bruising – including nosebleeds

  • Tiny red spots in your skin (petechiae)

  • Excessive sweating, especially at night

  • Bone pain or tenderness

What are the risk factors of leukaemia?

Risk factors that may increase the likelihood of this cancer include previous cancer treatments, genetic disorders such as Down’s syndrome, smoking, and a genetic history of the disease, the Mayo Clinic said.

Exposure to certain chemicals – such as benzene, which is found in gasoline in chemical plants – has been linked to some forms of leukaemia.