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Raising awareness this World Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia Day

written by

Leukaemia Care, Charity

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Whilst every September is a month dedicated to raising awareness of all blood cancers, each year the 22nd September is a day where people around the world specifically aim to raise awareness of chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). CML is a type of blood cancer that occurs when there is an uncontrolled growth of white blood cells in the bone marrow and the build-up of these cells in the blood.

Initiated by the patient community in 2008, World Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia Day is held on the 22nd September (22/09) each year because of its symbolic significance – the disease is caused by a mutation in chromosomes 9 and 22.

There are over 700 people diagnosed with CML in the UK each year. Many patients have no symptoms at the time they are diagnosed and it is often discovered following a blood test as part of a routine check-up or for another condition. This is usually because the symptoms are non-specific and could be confused with other, less serious illnesses.

The most common signs and symptoms of CML are caused by the bone marrow being unable to produce enough normal blood cells. Typical symptoms can be anaemia, tiredness, shortness of breath, light-headedness, persistent infections, fever and unusual bruising. 

Whilst CML is not “curable”, it is usually manageable thanks to a relatively new class of drugs called tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI). TKIs have transformed the treatment of CML so now many patients are expected to have a good quality of life after being diagnosed with a near-normal life expectancy.

Leukaemia CARE is a member of the “CML Advocates Network”, a group connecting more than 100 patient organisations in almost 80 countries. Last year, the network commemorated World CML Day by canvassing their “Today, Together” campaign, which raised awareness of CML and encouraged the CML patient community to hold events in aid of the awareness day.  

This year, the campaign continues and the motto “Today, Together” remains the same. CML Advocates Network hope that CML patients will unite to acknowledge the courage required to live with the condition and the importance of having a community support network.

Here, Nigel Deekes who was diagnosed with CML when he was 45, describes how he felt when he was diagnosed and how support from the CML community and Leukaemia CARE helped him through the initial period following diagnosis.