'I was told blood cancer was growing pains'

Alessia
Alessia says "always trust your instinct" when it comes to your health [BBC]

A teenager whose cancer symptoms were initially put down to "growing pains" has urged young people to "be persistent" with their doctors.

Alessia, who was eventually diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin lymphoma, said she felt excessively tired last summer, and had painful joints.

The 16-year-old, from Wigan, urged teenagers to "get checked" and trust their instincts.

NHS England has been approached for comment.

Confusion

The Teenage Cancer Trust - which provides support and care to youngsters throughout their treatment - said seven young people aged between 13 and 24 were diagnosed with cancer each day in the UK.

Hodgkin lymphoma is among the most common cancers found in that age group, yet getting a diagnosis can be difficult.

Symptoms are sometimes confused with growing pains or infections, the trust said.

Alessia said she started getting "really tired, barely having any energy or motivation" and pains in her joints which were "getting worse over time".

Alessia was assigned support worker Jen Duggan and they have formed a unique bond.

Alessia said Jen had helped her "massively" during her treatment and they had done fun things together, including making TikTok videos, which "takes your mind off everything else and what's really going on".

She said initially what upset her the most was worrying about losing her hair and thinking of her treatment's side effects.

But she said that no longer bothered her.

'Be confident and be myself'

In February, the government launched a children and young people task force of experts led by childhood cancer campaigner Dame Caroline Dinenage to improve treatment, detection and research for cancer in youngsters.

The NHS National Cancer Patient Experience Survey 2022 revealed 47% of people diagnosed with cancer between the age of 16 and 24 had seen a primary care professional three or more times before being diagnosed.

Alessia talked about her experiences during an assembly at her high school in Wigan.

She told her classmates: "I've suffered and thought way too much about my image, people's opinions and what they think of me.

"I have come to the realisation that although my wig, for example, has brought me unreal amounts of confidence, I don't need it to be confident and be myself."

Alessia urged others who suspected something was not right to "be persistent and get it checked".

And she added: "Always trust your instinct."

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