World Blood Donor Day 2018
Donating blood to those affected by cancer
Blood is made in the bone marrow and composed of red blood cells (RBCs), white blood cells, plasma and platelets.
Donating blood is vital in helping others with a range of illnesses and injuries and could mean the difference in saving somebody’s life.
Platelet donations in particular can prove extremely helpful to individuals affected by cancers like leukaemia as their own bodies may be unable to produce enough platelets (the fluid part of the blood) due to the disease itself or subsequent treatment. Platelet donations are life-saving and one donation can go a long way in helping a number of different people, including upto 12 children. Once donated, platelets have a short life so there is always a high demand for donations of this nature.
People living with or undergoing treatment for cancer might need blood transfusions for a range of reasons. This can be due to the nature of the cancer itself, or other factors such as treatments.
Why might some people with cancer need blood transfusions?
- Red blood cell transfusions:
- Some cancers cause internal bleeding, this can lead to the patient having anaemia from a lack of RBCs.
- Others may contract anaemia of chronic disease, which can be caused by having cancer for an extended period of time, affecting the lifespan of RBCs.
- Individuals with cancers that originate from the bone marrow, like leukaemia, may need blood transfusions because this type of cancer ‘crowds out’ regular blood-making cells, resulting in low blood cell counts.
- Cancer can affect other organs in the body, such as the kidneys, resulting in a decline of cells in the blood and leading to a need for blood transfusions.
Cancer treatments may lead to a patient needing a blood transfusion for a number of reasons. For example, treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy lead to low blood cell counts because the nature of the treatments means that cells in the bone marrow are affected- low blood cell counts caused by treatments like chemotherapy can lead to life-threatening infections, so it is vital that the patient has access to blood transfusions.
Other treatments may destroy the blood-making cells in the bone marrow, leading to a very low blood cell count and a need for blood transfusions.
The thought of donating blood can be daunting, but the benefits can be so tremendous and life-changing, especially for people with cancer and those with very rare blood types who are in need of transfusions. If you want to donate blood this World Blood Donor Day, you can sign up on the nhs website.
Find out more about the types of cancer we treat at the Cancer Centre London here.