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A national campaign to improve blood cancer awareness has been launched in response to new research that shows almost two thirds (60 per cent) of the Irish public mistake multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow, for a form of skin cancer, and only one in eight (12 per cent) associate it with blood cancer.

Nearly one in five (17 per cent) claimed it is rare and doesn’t affect many people, while others incorrectly assumed the low level of awareness is due to low mortality rates. Eighty five per cent of the study’s respondents were surprised to learn is the fourth most common cause of cancer-related death in Ireland.

Blood cancer support charities, the Irish Cancer Society, Multiple Myeloma Ireland and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia Ireland, in partnership with Janssen, have rallied together in the Make Blood Cancer Visible campaign, launched by former Irish professional boxer, Barry McGuigan.

Donal Buggy, Head of Services and Advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society explained that the campaign will engage with the general public, politicians and key decision makers during September, Blood Cancer Awareness Month, to discuss the challenges faced by blood cancer patients nationwide.

Blood cancer is an umbrella term for cancers that affect the blood, bone marrow and lymphatic system. Together, they comprise nearly 10 per cent of all cancers, with more than 1,900 people across Ireland diagnosed annually.

The study revealed that two thirds (67 per cent) of people believe that there are low levels of awareness of blood cancer amongst the population because they have not heard much about it in the media.

Michael O’Dwyer, Professor of Haematology at NUI Galway and Blood Cancer Network Ireland Director spoke of the stride that blood cancer research had many over the past number of years.

He highlighted the necessity of continued investment: “In Ireland, the five-year net survival for someone diagnosed with multiple myeloma, for example, has nearly doubled in the period from 1994-2013, and continues to improve.

“Despite this progress, the need is still great for continued investment in clinical research and innovation in this field, but also for patients to recognise their symptoms earlier”.

The Make Blood Cancer Visible campaign will host a free patient information event for people living with blood cancer on Wednesday, 27th September. The event is open to all people living with blood cancer as well as their family, friends and carers. For all campaign information visit cancer.ie/bloodcancer.