BRITS have been warned over a “silent killer” disease that may initially appear to only be a common sore throat.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the sixth most common type of cancer in adults, but many are still unaware of the symptoms to watch out for.
The silent killer struck dad-of-three Graeme Stirling two years ago, and he is now sharing his experience to urge others to get any symptoms checked out.
The 62-year-old first woke up to a sore throat back in May 2020, but had no idea it could have been fatal.
But after disregarding the symptoms, he later rushed to visit his GP when he found a lump on his neck.
It turned out to be a swollen lymph node, and Graeme was given a devastating cancer diagnosis.
The dad-of-three says he doesn’t think he “would still be here” if he hadn’t noticed the lump when he did and dashed to the doctors.
Graeme told the Daily Record: “I didn’t think anything about my health to be honest because I was still fine and healthy, but I woke up with a sore throat.
“I’d been spraying the fence with anti fungal stuff so I thought I’d damaged my tonsils.
“But it developed into a lump on the right hand side of my neck.
“When the lump developed I went to the doctors immediately, I’d been kind of thinking about it because my tonsils felt like they were inflamed a bit.”
Charlotte Bloodworth, Advanced Clinical Practitioner at the University Hospital of Wales and spokesperson for Lymphoma Action, urged anyone with any symptoms to act quickly.
She said: “Lymphoma is less well known than other cancers so it is important to raise awareness of it so that more people can be treated earlier, often the later the presentation the more difficult it can be to treat.
“Sometimes people will present with a neck or axilla lump that has not gone away but feel well, others may have a lymphoma mass that cannot be felt and is discovered when having a routine scan for another reason.”
Graeme added that due to the pandemic, he to wait until he could get treatment – a delay that led him to develop lumps in his groin area as well.
His diagnosis was what is known as mantel cells lymphoma – a form of non-Hodgkin’s which causes white blood cells to become abnormal and build up in your lymph nodes.
The dad-of-three then went through intensive treatment that he feels affected him more than the cancer itself.
“It was pretty intensive,” he said.
“It started off with three months of chemotherapy then a couple of months after that a stem cell transplant.
“The only time I started to feel ill through this whole thing was halfway through my chemotherapy.
“The treatment had a 50-60 per cent chance of success and even the success would probably mean its not gone away because there’s a 30-40 per cent chance it could return.
“It could be controlled but it couldn’t be cured, which is a message that you have to take a bit of time to mull over in your head.”
Graeme was forced to stay in isolation for almost a month at Edinburgh’s Western General while undergoing treatment during the pandemic – an ordeal he described as “horrible”.
Thankfully, he was eventually given the all-clear after a further year of treatment, and went on to raise over £2,000 for cancer charity Lymphoma Action by running a 10km race just four months after his recovery.
“GET IT SEEN”
Graeme celebrated his first year as a survivor back in June, but feels things could have turned out far differently had he not taken quick action.
He is now urging people to not ignore any signs or suspicions and to “get it seen as quickly possible.”
“Even people who’ve got friends or family that might be showing symptoms but not doing anything about it, encourage them – march them to the doctors,” he added.
“The worst thing they’ll tell you is you’ve got cancer, but the best thing that can happen is you haven’t. You probably don’t have it but it’s always better to know.”
Charlotte added that the dad’s active lifestyle could have masked his suspicions, said the silent killer is “not related to lifestyle or behaviours and can develop at any age, affecting both adults and children.
“However, different types of lymphoma are more common at different times of your life.
“For example, Hodgkin’s lymphoma is more common between the ages of 15 and 40 and many types of Non-Hodgkin lymphomas are more common later in life.
“Having one or more of the symptoms does not necessarily mean you have lymphoma. Many of these are also symptoms of other health problems such as uncontrolled diabetes or infection.
“It is so important that you go to your GP to have any concerns investigated.”
What are the symptoms of lymphoma?
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma affects more than 14,000 Brits every year and is the sixth most common type of cancer in adults in the UK.
Signs and symptoms of the disease may include:
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin
- Chest pain, breathing difficulties or coughing
- Persistent fatigue
- Fevers or night sweats
- Unexplained weight loss
The only way to confirm a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is via a biopsy.
The main treatments for non-Hodgkin lymphoma are chemotherapy and radiotherapy.