Student competition to raise awareness of lymphatic cancer

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On November 2nd 2009 the Lymphoma Association launched the ‘PITS’ campaign, designed to increase awareness of lymphatic cancer amongst students.

The campaign highlights the common signs and symptoms of the disease. ‘PITS’ is an acronym of Persistent Lumps, Itching, Tiredness and Sweating, the main indicators of the illness. It is a three year project designed to make students aware of the key symptoms of lymphatic cancer, the most common form of cancer in 15-30 year olds, and see their GP if they experience any.

The first stage of the ‘PITS’ campaign was launched on 2 November last year and is due to end in March, with the second stage launching later this year. Sarah Harvey, Press Officer for the Lymphoma Association, said: “The association has always worked at raising awareness of lymphoma in young people. However, this is the first time that we have received funding from the Department of Health allowing us to launch a targeted campaign.”

The campaign currently takes the form of a website, www.pitfart.com, which enables students and young people to access important information about lymphatic cancer as well as read the stories of students who have been affected by the disease. The website is running a competition encouraging young people to upload a clip of themselves performing a ‘pit fart,’ a noise made by cupping your hand under your armpit. The clips can then be accessed by others on the website and the person with the highest number of views by 2 March will win a trip for two to Paris.

Currently, the number of young people being diagnosed with lymphatic cancer every year appears to be staying constant. The latest available statistics show that in 2006, 831 people under 30 were diagnosed with lymphoma, 479 of whom were male and 352 female.

Lymphatic cancer is a disease that begins in the lymphatic system, which forms part of the immune system. Cancer occurs when normal cells undergo a transformation whereby they grow and multiply uncontrollably and lymphoma is a malignant transformation of white blood cells called lymphocytes. The exact cause of lymphoma remains unclear although it could be due to circumstances such as age, infection, or genetics. However, like most cancers, lymphoma is treatable if caught early enough.

The Lymphoma Association is the only specialist UK charity that actively supports people with lymphatic cancer, providing medical information and emotional support to patients, their families and friends as well as aiming to raise awareness of the disease. According to Harvey, services offered include “a freephone helpline, comprehensive free literature, a buddy scheme with telephone links to others with similar experiences, local support groups, regional patient conferences and a fully interactive website featuring a message board and chat room.”

The Lymphoma Association also works closely with parliamentarians to lobby for better support, care and treatment for lymphatic cancer patients everywhere. They represent the patient perspective by providing evidence for National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) appraisals, working as an active member of both the Cancer Campaigning Group and the Rarer Cancers Forum and by being a founder member of the Lymphoma Coalition – an international group of lymphoma patient support organisations.

More information can be found at www.lymphomas.org.uk and www.pitfart.com.

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