Patients with blood cancer are seeing remarkable progress in treatment, diagnosis, and prognosis as technology continues to advance. Survival rates have doubled in many cases, and some have even tripled. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society was first founded in 1949, and in that time significant progress has been made. The quality of life for patients impacted by these types of cancer has greatly improved since 1949, and will continue to do so. Hodgkin lymphoma patient survival rates are at a record 86% since the 1960s, and other forms of cancer have seen their survival rates impacted favorably as well over time.
Pharmacists play a crucial role in helping patients with cancer. National Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness month is a unique opportunity to not only educate the general public on these cancers, diagnosis, and treatment, but to connect with patients within one’s local community that are affected by the disease. Pharmacies have a variety of literature available to them through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America and the National Cancer Society, among others. Local chapters of both of these programs may be in your area. Connecting with a chapter to schedule an information session, educational meeting, or a support group for those impacted by leukemia or lymphoma is just one way that pharmacies and their staff can reach out to clients during the month. Consider sponsoring a local community event to raise awareness about these types of cancer at your pharmacy during the month of September.
Every 4 minutes, another person is diagnosed with blood cancer in the United States. A fatality occurs every 10 minutes. Over one million people in the US are living with blood cancer. Pharmacies can do their part to help educate clients and caregivers by ensuring that patients have access to affordable medication, and adhere to their medication regime per their doctor’s orders.
If a patient is depressed or withdrawn, or a caregiver appears to be struggling, suggesting a local cancer support group may not be unwelcome. Often, the public does not know that support groups for individuals with blood cancer exist. Offering literature, phone numbers, and a way to connect with these groups will be educational and beneficial to your community. Though many people live with leukemia and lymphoma, survival rates and quality of life are vastly improving.
Pharmacies can also offer personalized recommendations according to patient medical history, and must keep in contact with a patient’s primary care office if a treatment needs to be adjusted. Often, medication dosages may change with little warning. Pharmacies must be aware of correct procedures and possible side effects that may arise from a changed dose or switched medication. Controlling nausea and managing fatigue are important to patients that are on immunosuppressive therapy, and pharmacists should attempt to explain to patients or caregivers the correct dosage and scheduling of any anti-nausea medication that may be prescribed.
Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month may only last 30 days, but with proper pharmacy staff training, community connections, and education of the public, awareness of blood cancers will last far beyond that.