A patient at Kettering General Hospital (KGH) is championing a national campaign to prevent long waits to diagnosis of a cancer of the blood.
Father-of-two Dave Carson, 70, from Kettering, has teamed up with Myeloma UK in National Myeloma Awareness Week (June 20-26) to help prevent delayed diagnosis of the disease.
He is being supported by KGH hospital specialists who are asking all medical professionals to look out for symptoms that could be myeloma - because only specialised myeloma specific tests can lead to its diagnosis.
KGH Consultant Haematologist, Dr Alex Gebreyes, said: “Multiple Myeloma can be difficult to detect as the symptoms can be subtle and may mimic many other common medical complaints such as tiredness and back pain.
“I would urge all medical professionals to be vigilant and consider myeloma when they see symptoms like unexplained fractures, anaemia, tiredness, weight loss, abnormal kidney function, or raised total protein or serum calcium in blood tests.”
A report by Myeloma UK shows that on average it takes 163 days to diagnose myeloma because initial symptoms can be subtle and mirror other conditions.
Dave was diagnosed with multiple myeloma on August 5, 2020, some 53 days after an initial A&E visit with chest pain and after a confirmatory bone marrow test.
His myeloma diagnosis was a second major blow for him after losing both of his legs and six fingertips to sepsis in 2013. Mr Carson fought back, learned to walk on prosthetic legs, and became a leading local volunteer for the UK Sepsis Trust. He now wants to volunteer for Myeloma UK.
He said: “Because of my experience with sepsis I have to be very careful and when I had chest pain and felt breathless I went to A&E in case it was pneumonia. Nothing was found on my first visit but 18 days later I went back to A&E with more chest pain and further tests raised the suspicion of myeloma.
“I hope my story helps raise awareness and helps patients and medical professionals to be more aware so that people get treatment earlier and have a better quality of life.”
Anything over 90 days to diagnosis from GP or A&E visit is considered a delayed diagnosis and a quarter of patients wait more than a year to be diagnosed – some of the longest waits to any cancer diagnosis.
Delays to treatment mean the incurable disease can progress to cause significant pain, bone fractures, and kidney damage, reducing quality of life and shortening remaining life expectancy.
Kathy Heywood, KGH’s Macmillan Lymphoma Clinical Nurse Specialist, said: “Dave is a tremendously brave man. It is important to take symptoms like fatigue, muscle and bone pain and unexpected fractures seriously and have them fully investigated.”
Dave added: “People say I’m a really resilient and positive person. Talking openly about how I’m feeling has helped me. It’s saved my mental health.
“Some days when I think about what’s happened it can be overwhelming. But I feel that I’ve come through the initial diagnosis and the ‘Why me?’. I just want to look forward. It’s difficult when there’s no cure but I want to raise awareness. I’m certain other people have not yet been diagnosed and they’re in trouble.”