THE mum of a tragic young bone cancer victim is urging parents to know the signs of the deadly disease during a national awareness week.
Karen Ledsham, from Haydock, lost her son Harrison, who would have turned 13 last week, following a year-long battle with primary bone cancer in May and is now urging other parents to know the symptoms to ensure early diagnosis.
Awareness is very important. We didn’t think it was going to be cancer and didn’t take it that seriously at firstKaren Ledsham
She spoke out during an awareness week organised by the Bone Cancer Research Trust (BCRT), which is teaming up with the Royal College of GPs to produce an e-learning module for doctors.
Karen and husband Paul have been using social media to raise awareness since Harrison’s death from osteosarcoma and hope to prevent other parents going through a similar nightmare ordeal.
Karen, 42, said: “Awareness is very important. We didn’t think it was going to be cancer and didn’t take it that seriously at first.
“When we first went to the GP we were told it was growing pains and that sounded feasible as many of the symptoms matched. We know lots of people who have been misdiagnosed and it can take months to get it right.
“Parents need to be aware of the things which should ring alarm bells. I had never heard of it before. I knew about bone cancer because I’m a nurse but not this type.
“I think people in our area are more aware of bone cancer in children now because of Harrison but some of them think it will happen to somebody else.
“Hopefully the awareness week will help somebody else in the future and allow other children to reach their birthdays.”
Since Harrison’s death his beloved St Helens rugby league club has continued the awareness drive, wearing T-shirts bearing his name and the charity’s logo during the warm-up before some of its Super League matches.
The BCRT says knowledge of primary bone cancer symptoms among GPs has improved by 32 per cent since its e-learning module was introduced.
The charity wants people to take an action pack to their local surgeries as the latest figures show less than half of bone cancer patients were sent for further investigation or referred between 2005 and 2010.
Around 600 new cases of primary bone cancer are diagnosed in the UK and Ireland each year, with around 300 people dying annually from the diseases.
Osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma mainly affect children and young people aged between 10 and 24, with chondrosarcoma and chordoma mainly occurring in those 50 or over.
The main symptoms are bone pains which may come and go or swelling, meaning the cancers are often mistaken for sporting injuries, growing pains or common medical conditions such as tendonitis or arthritis.
To find out more, visit www.bcrt.org.uk