WITH only 2% of the UK’s population on the blood stem cell registry, this Blood Cancer Awareness Month, DKMS, the blood cancer charity, is urging more of us to come forward and sign up as a potential lifesaver through its You’ve Got it in You campaign.
Every 20 minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with a blood cancer, such as leukaemia, myeloma or lymphoma and blood cancers are the third most common cause of cancer death.
Only one in three people with a blood cancer (and in need of a transplant) will find a matching blood stem cell donor within their own family – two in three rely on a generous stranger to register as a donor to save their life.
A blood stem cell donation from a genetically similar person can offer the best, or only chance of survival.
There are two ways in which people can donate their blood stem cells, if they are identified as a match for someone in need.
The vast majority, 90% of all donations, are made through a method called peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) which is very much like giving blood.
The blood is passed through a machine that isolates and collects the stem cells, and it usually takes around four hours. In just 10% of cases, people will give a bone marrow donation, which takes around an hour and is carried out under general anaesthetic.
Dr Manos Nikolousis, a Medical Advisor at DMKS, said: “As a doctor, I have had the great privilege to oversee countless blood stem cell donations. For some donors, it is a daunting prospect, because of the myths and misconceptions around the process, but once they understand the donation methods and what’s involved, they are reassured.
“For most donors, the recovery time is very quick and their blood stem cells will regenerate within 4 weeks so there aren’t any lasting effects to the donor.
“Blood stem cell matches are determined by a person’s human leukocyte antigen (HLA) tissue type and not their blood types.
“There are thousands of tissue types, and millions of different combinations that exist, so you could be potentially the only match for a person with blood cancer in need of a transplant. You could literally have it in you to save someone’s life.
“Anyone between the ages of 17 -55 and in general good health can become a potential blood stem potential donor. We urgently need many more people to register as potential blood stem cell donors with DKMS this September and beyond, to help give more people with blood cancers and disorders a second chance at life.”
Alex Christopher, 32 from Chorley donated in February 2018, and he said: “I decided to donate following an appeal I saw on twitter. I was a little fearful about the process despite all my reading and research.
“On the day itself, the medical staff couldn’t have been more reassuring and answered all my questions. I was literally lying on the bed waiting for the pain to come – it didn’t! I spent the whole time watching my downloads and napping and I didn’t feel any ill effects afterwards at all.
“I do wonder who received my stem cells and I hope that their life is much better as a result, and if possible, I would like to meet them one day.
“I think those few hours I spent donating was a small price to pay for potentially saving someone’s life. The doctors said my own stem cells would regenerate after a couple of weeks.
“Essentially, I spent five hours catching up on emails and watching downloads and could have potentially saved someone’s life, or at the very least, I have given them extra precious time to be with their loved ones and friends and that still makes me feel so very proud.”
It is simple to register as a potential lifesaver. You can order your home swab kit online at dkms.org.uk. You swab the inside of your cheeks and send everything back in a prepaid envelope for your details to be added to the registry.