Archive for September, 2011

September 16, 2011

Raising awareness about lymphoma

This week has been a big week at the LBF, as we marked World Lymphoma Awareness Day  on September 15.  This is a really important event on our calendar as it provides a fantastic opportunity for us to raise awareness about  lymphoma, an insidious and prevalent form of blood cancer,  with close to 900 New Zealanders each year being diagnosed.

This year we had fantastic help from a range of patients who very generously shared their experiences to be part of our film project ‘Lymphoma, – my story’.  You can check these out on the LBF  YouTube channel.

These  films are such an important tool for us to raise awareness, as lymphoma really flies under the radar in New Zealand.  This is of real concern when you consider it is the most common form of cancer in 15 to 24 year olds, and the sixth most common form of cancer in New Zealand. In this country lymphoma kills as many people as melanoma every year.

So why is so little known about this cancer, compared to say prostate cancer and breast cancer which are highly placed in the consciousness of most New Zealanders?

The fact is that it’s somewhat challenging to get media coverage on lymphoma, a situation which is shared by our counterparts overseas.  There are many reasons for this.  The first is that very few people (the media included) realise that lymphoma is actually a serious form of cancer. This may have something to do with the fact that it was referred to as Hodgkins and Non-Hodgkins disease for so many years. Lymphoma is a relatively difficult cancer to understand, as it doesn’t affect a particular body part and is for the large part invisible.

Lymphoma is also not something that a prevention message can be linked to as it can’t be screened for, and we are still not really sure what causes it.   In saying this though, there is currently very interesting international research being undertaken by the International Lymphoma Epidemiology Consortium (InterLymph).  They have launched a series of films to discuss their recent research findings. The films can be viewed here. 

Despite these challenges, and the extra challenge of operating in a media space heavily dominated by the Rugby World Cup this week, we are committed to raising awareness of lymphoma among both the general public and GPS.  This will ensure that it is diagnosed correctly at an early stage. Diagnosis of lymphoma is often very difficult due to the fact the symptoms are similar to those of the flu.

We’ve been thrilled with the response to our social media awareness campaign which involved asking daily questions about lymphoma – ‘Know Your Nodes’, and sharing  patient stories. Our counterparts in France have also produced some really interesting and somewhat shocking advertisements to raise awareness in their country which you may be interested in viewing – see advertisement one  and advertisement two. (NB: for subtitiles click on the cc button).

September 2, 2011

Poukai at Whatapaka marae

This week I was honoured to attend a Poukai at Whatapaka marae in Karaka as part of the Middlemore Tissue Bank (MTB) delegation.  The Poukai is an annual series of visits by the Māori king, Kingi Tuheitia, to Kīngitanga marae around and beyond the Waikato region.  I was fascinated to learn that this tradition dates back to the 19th century.

The Leukaemia & Blood Foundation is a sponsor partner of the MTB, which has a really big job on its hands working to establish a comprehensive store of cancer tumour tissue for use in research.

We could not have been made more welcome by all and it was fantastic that representatives from the MTB had an opportunity to speak about their service at the Poukai as is really so important that Māori are encouraged and supported to donate tissue bio-specimens for research. This will enable researches to investigate the effects of current and potential new cancer therapies in Māori and Pacific peoples, of which we know very little about at the moment.