Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bone Marrow and Blood: Getting Involved

There are many ways to help children with cancer, and one way to do it is to donate your fluids: blood and bone marrow.
Chemotherapy, the standard treatment for many cancers, works by killing rapidly reproducing cells, which is what cancer is. However, chemo isn't an exact treatment, and other rapidly producing cells are often caught in the crossfire. These cells including blood cells.
As a result of this blood cell murder, most cancer patients need a blood tranfusion at some point. This is where you come in. See, here in America, our blood supply is mostly donations. And there are never too many blood donors. In fact, many areas suffer blood shortages, from not enough donors. This causes treatment to be delayed for hours or even days until blood is located and processed, creating harmful side effects.
You can donate blood at either a donation center or at a blood drives. Blood drives are usually held at schools, churches and hospitals, but can be held pretty much anywhere the blood mobile can go. Perhaps your workplace or university can or has set one up. Find blood drives through the red cross: www.redcrossblood.org/giveblood?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=blood
Another donatable body fluid is bone marrow. This is the producer of blood cells and is found inside large/long bones, such as the pelvis or femur. Bone marrow is often comprimised due to cancer (or treatment), especially in leukemias and other blood cancers. Often a bone marrow transplant is needed.
Here the process is a little more complex. With blood, there are 4 types (A, B, AB, and O) which can be either Rh + or -. Bone marrow has thousands of unique types, therefore making matching important. Usually, the best bone marrow donor match is either a sibling or parent, and then a stranger. So, when parents and siblings don't match, how does one find a stranger with the right genetic type?
Enter the national bone marrow registry. This registry allows people to have their HLA type discovered, and then the data is placed in a computer registry. When no familial match is found for donation, the patients information is put in the registry to be compared to thousands of possible donors.
So, in order to provide the best chances of finding a match, hundreds of thousands of potential donors are needed. You can join the marrow registry at: marrow.org/Home.aspx. Donors of mixed ethnicities and young donors (age 18-45) are especially needed.
Please consider donating blood or joinging the marrow registry. It is worth saving the life of a child.

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