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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia uses Blood Cancer Awareness Month in September to raise awareness about leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma and Hodgkin’s disease, support patients affected by blood cancer and collect donations funds for research, said a Saudi oncologist.

According to a 2020 GLOBOCAN report published by the World Health Organization, Saudi Arabia had 4,326 new cases of blood cancer, including 1,698 patients who were detected with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, 1,676 with leukemia, 687 with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and 265 with multiple myeloma.

Speaking to Arab News, Dr. Ayman Al-Hejazi, Assistant Professor of Hematology Oncology at King Saudi bin Abdulaziz University of Health Sciences in Riyadh, said: “Blood cancer awareness is becoming more and more largest in Saudi Arabia. There are three main types of blood and bone marrow cancers: leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

“In addition to the malignant nature of the disease, blood cancer treatments and management affect patients and caregivers financially and emotionally. People living with any form of blood cancer are affected in their ability to carry out their daily activities. A strong emotional impact on people living with the disease includes worry about their future, their treatment and the possibility of relapse.

He thinks blood cancer awareness is relatively low around the world.

Al-Hejazi, who also runs the Saudi adult hematology training fellowship program at King Abdulaziz Medical City and is its director, told Arab News: “Awareness is important, and I believe the Saudi government is making a huge contribution. to be raised through various programs and initiatives.

“However, I also believe in the importance of collaborative work between governments, healthcare professionals and pharmaceutical companies that come up with innovative treatments to create the most effective treatment strategies, disease management approaches and, most importantly, , post-treatment care plans designed to prolong patients’ lives.

He said at least nine major national cancer centers are providing treatment to patients in Saudi Arabia.

All types of blood cancer affect patients at different levels, and raising awareness to ensure early cancer detection and treatment can save many lives and improve the quality of life for those undergoing treatment, whether in remission or nearing completion. stages of their recovery, as well as those undergoing repeated therapies.

Dr Ayman Al-Hejazi, Assistant Professor of Hematology Oncology, King Saudi bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences

While the Kingdom is considered a high-income country, shortages of cancer treatment drugs remain a significant challenge in Saudi Arabia as well as other developed countries.

“One of the solutions to this challenge would be to focus on treatments and disease management strategies that prolong periods of remission and optimize medication intake. New agents, in addition to the introduction of more practical initiatives such as on-body drug delivery systems for cancer treatments, can reduce the overall costs of disease,” the oncologist said.

Discussing the different types of blood cancer affecting people in the Kingdom, Al-Hejazi said, “All types of blood cancer affect patients at different levels, and raising awareness to ensure early detection and treatment of cancer can save many lives and improve the quality of life. the lives of those undergoing treatment, in remission or in the final stages of their recovery as well as those undergoing repeated therapies.

“All types of blood cancer are dangerous and patients in the Kingdom are frequently diagnosed with all types. Multiple myeloma is considered the second most common malignancy in the blood,” he added.

Multiple myeloma – most commonly diagnosed in people aged 65 to 74 – is a cancer of plasma cells, which are types of white blood cells found in the bone marrow. However, in the Kingdom, many cases are detected at a younger age, with less than 7% of the population being over 65.

Commenting on common symptoms and diagnostic strategies at different stages of blood cancer, the oncologist said some of the common symptoms of blood cancer include weight loss, bruising or bleeding, lumps or swelling, a shortness of breath, profuse night sweats, persistent, recurrent disorders or serious infections and high fevers. Symptoms of multiple myeloma may also include persistent or recurring bone pain, fractures, persistent fatigue due to anemia or kidney failure, and nervous system disorders.

Initial blood cancer diagnoses may include a complete blood test that measures the amount of each type of blood cell in a sample, as well as a bone marrow biopsy to confirm multiple myeloma, Al-Hejazi said.

Early treatments are likely to include a mix of different drugs. Chemotherapy is often considered the only treatment option, but a range of cancer drugs are also available in the Kingdom.

The majority of people newly diagnosed with blood cancer receive emotional support and care from their family, but many patients still feel isolated even when surrounded by loved ones and turn to the internet for help. help, Al-Hejazi said.

Family members are more likely to provide multiple types of care, such as helping the patient with general household chores. Caregivers can often be heavily impacted by their role, affecting them psychologically, socially and financially. During this time, cancer patients can develop mental health issues and, most commonly, suffer from depression and fear.

The most important goal, however, should be to prolong progression-free periods, with the ultimate goal of treating multiple myeloma being to minimize the economic burdens for patients and caregivers, Al-Hejazi said.

The term blood cancer is a general description of various blood-forming cancers. Our blood circulates through the blood vessels to supply all the tissues of the body with nutrients.

In about five liters of blood circulating in our body, there are billions of blood cells that perform various vital functions. All blood cells come from hematopoietic stem cells.

Hematopoietic stem cells are called stem cells and are able to renew and replace other cells that die.

Blood cancer is an abnormal proliferation of cells in the bone marrow, particularly white blood cells. Cancer cells flood the blood and drive out healthy cells.

As a result, the blood can no longer perform its basic tasks, such as transporting oxygen and protecting the body against infections.

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