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Providing support to anyone affected by blood cancer
When we think of giving blood, we might often imagine it’s being used to help people who have lost too much blood, such as in an accident, surgery, or childbirth. And, when we think of leukaemia, we might think that it’s just stem cells and bone marrow that patients need. However, in 2014, 67% of blood donated to the NHS was used to treat anaemia, cancer and blood disorders.
How is donated blood used?
Blood is made up of a number of parts. When someone gives blood, their donation will usually be split into red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma.
· Red blood cells – these are used to treat patients with anaemia (low haemoglobin levels)
· White blood cells – these are used to treat patients whose own immune system is compromised or too weak to fight off infection
· Platelets – these help blood to clot, and can be used to treat patients who have bone marrow failure, have had chemotherapy, or have leukaemia
· Plasma – is the fluid that carries all the components that make up blood. It contains a number of important proteins that are used to treat people with haemophilia (a disorder where the blood doesn’t clot properly) or a low immune system.
Patients with blood cancer and blood disorders will often need blood transfusions during treatment, simply because the disease itself can affect the normal production of blood. In addition, chemotherapy can disrupt blood production and lower the immune system, meaning that white blood cells and other components may be needed.
In fact, the Leukaemia Foundation have said, “The average amount of blood products required for treatment of an acute leukaemia patient includes 9 units (250mls/unit) of red cells each month, or 36 units (30mls/unit) of platelets each month. Each unit is extracted from 470ml of blood, which is an average blood donation. As a result, to treat one patient with acute leukaemia for one month needs 18 people to donate blood.”
So, who can give blood?
The vast majority of people can, providing you are fit and healthy, you’re aged between 17 and 66 (or 70, if you’ve given blood before providing it was in the last two years), and you weigh more than 7 stone 12 lbs or 50kg.
Other criteria includes any health conditions you have and where you have recently travelled. Unfortunately, if you have or have had blood cancer, you will not be eligible to donate. You can find out more on the NHS Give Blood website, just click here.
How do I sign up?
If you’re eligible to donate blood and it’s something you would like to do, it’s easy to sign up to be a blood donor.
Simply head online to the NHS Give Blood website, fill in your details and book your first appointment at a location near you.
What happens on the day?
Before you arrive, make sure you have had enough to eat and drink and that you feel well. Once you’re at the venue, you will have a private health check and a finger prick blood test to make sure you have enough iron in your blood. If you are unable to donate on the day, you will always be provided with an explanation why.
When you are called for your donation, you will be fitted with a blood pressure cuff on your arm to ensure a small amount of pressure during the donation. A suitable vein will then be found, the sight cleaned with an antiseptic sponge, and then the needle inserted.
You shouldn’t experience any pain or discomfort during giving blood. If for any reason you do, then you should raise your other arm and alert a donor carer, who will be keeping an eye on you throughout your donation.
Once you have donated 470ml of blood, an agitator scale that constantly measures and weighs the blood donated will automatically stop the donation.
After you have donated, your arm will be dressed, you will be given a card with important information, and provided with snacks and refreshments. You are encouraged to relax for 15 minutes after you have given blood. If you feel unwell in this time, alert a member of staff immediately. You should also not use your arm for any heavy lifting for the rest of the day.
Can’t give blood? You may be eligible to donate your stem cells
If you aren’t eligible to give blood, you may still be able to help blood cancer patients by joining the stem cell register.
Find out more on Anthony Nolan’s website by clicking here.
What are you waiting for? Sign up today to give blood and help blood cancer patients!