Simon Thomas opens up about his wife's blood cancer: Here's how to spot the signs

Caroline Allen
Contributor
Gemma Thomas died three days after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). [Photo: Bloodwise]

Former Sky Sports presenter, Simon Thomas, has been on a difficult journey since his wife passed away from acute myeloid leukaemia in 2017.

He spoke to Phil and Holly on This Morning about how she died so suddenly from it and he has written a book, Love Interrupted, Navigating Grief One Day At A Time detailing his experience.

Gemma Thomas died just three days after being diagnosed with blood cancer.

It’s the third biggest cancer killer in the UK and the signs of it can be so varied, making diagnosing it early challenging.

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Types of blood cancer

There are three main types of blood cancer: leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

Each type originates in a different area. Leukaemia originates in the blood and bone marrow and occurs when the body creates too many abnormal white blood cells.

Lymphoma begins in the lymphatic system and myeloma begins in the blood’s plasma cells. This is a type of white blood cell made in the bone marrow.

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Signs and symptoms of blood cancer

Although each type of blood cancer originates in different areas, the signs and symptoms of each one are mostly the same.

According to Bloodwise, the most common symptoms are:

  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)

  • repeated infections

  • unexplained weight loss

  • easy bruising and / or bleeding

  • drenching night sweats

  • itchy skin

  • lumps or swellings in your neck, head, groin or stomach

  • bone and / or joint pain

Blood cancer symptoms are known to be quite vague and many of them are also present in other illnesses, namely the cold and flu.

Night sweats, lumps and swelling are most commonly associated with lymphoma, but unexplained lumps and bumps can also arise for a number of other reasons.

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Earliest signs of blood cancer

Some of the more common and pre-diagnosis signs of blood cancer include tiredness and bruising and bleeding (which can include the gums, heavy periods or persistent nose bleeds).

Blood cancer patients have also noted feeling full after a small meal and discomfort under the left side of their ribs. This symptom is caused by an increase of abnormal blood cells in the spleen.

One of the first signs might include night sweats. This symptom is more common amongst people suffering from lymphoma, but there’s little research to suggest why this happens.

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Who is more at risk of developing blood cancer?

Blood cancer is caused by mutations - or faults - in our DNA. These changes in our DNA happen for reasons we can’t prevent or control.

Research has shown that there are a number of factors that can increase your chance of getting blood cancer. These include:

Age

The older we get, the more likely we are to pick up mutations in our DNA. As a result, blood cancer can be more common in older people.

Family history

There is some evidence to suggest a slight increase, however, it’s not know whether its the mutated gene that is passed down or if the risk is increased in another way.

Radiation and chemical exposure

There is evidence to suggest that radiation and chemical exposure can increase your risk of blood cancer.

It’s important to note that this would have to be an extremely high level. It’s not a level you would experience in everyday life in the UK.

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Can I lower my risk?

Unlike a number of other cancers, lifestyle factors such as exercise and your diet won’t play a pivotal role in the development of blood cancer.

Regardless, keeping healthy certainly decreases the risk of developing a wide number of diseases.

Anyone with concerns about blood cancer should contact Bloodwise on 0808 2080 888.

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