Speaking on ITV’s This Morning alongside the Oxford haematology consultant who treated his wife Gemma, Simon highlighted the urgent need for better awareness of blood cancer symptoms among GPs and the general public.
Gemma, who was suffering with flu-like symptoms, visited her GP three times over the course of six days, and each time was told to go home and rest. Finally admitted to hospital, she died from acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) just four days later.
AML is a type of blood cancer that affects around 2,500 people every year in the UK. Symptoms include persistent and unexplained tiredness, infections, fever, bleeding, and weight loss. The causes of AML are unknown, but it is more common after the age of 60, and men are slightly more likely to be affected than women.
Ahead of the television interview, Simon told Bloodwise that he is committed to raising awareness of blood cancer symptoms to prevent other families going through similar heartbreak. He said: “I am making it my mission to raise awareness of the symptoms of blood cancer so that no other family has to suffer the heartbreak and pain that I and my son are going through. Gemma went to her GP three times and each time her symptoms didn’t point to anything serious so she was sent home. Whether or not earlier diagnosis would have saved Gemma’s life we will never know; but I will always be left wondering whether she had started chemotherapy earlier, her story might have been a different one.”
Gemma Peters, Bloodwise CEO, said: “We are so grateful to Simon for sharing his personal story to raise awareness of blood cancer. Acute myeloid leukaemia is a highly aggressive type of blood cancer which often develops rapidly. Survival rates remain unacceptably low in the UK with only 15% of patients surviving for 5 years, and so early diagnosis is absolutely crucial.
“Despite being the 5th most common cancer and third biggest cause of cancer deaths, public awareness of blood cancer remains dangerously low. Yet given blood cancer claims more lives each year than either breast or prostate cancer, it is vital that GPs and the public improve their understanding of potential symptoms, and that research and clinical trials to find new treatments are fully supported.
“Awareness initiatives, GP education, and ongoing investment in research were key recommendations proposed last month by MPs on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Blood Cancer. Bloodwise will continue to work closely with politicians, NHS decision makers, and professional health bodies to ensure early diagnosis and increased public awareness remain at the top of the blood cancer agenda.”
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