Every 20 minutes, someone in the UK is told they have a blood cancer such as leukaemia. For many, a bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant is their only chance. We spoke to our partners, Charity Anthony Nolan, on what is involved with donating and saving a life.
So, the most obvious question – does it hurt?
“We’ve spoken to countless donors who only have positive things to say about the donation experience. 90% of people now donate directly from their bloodstream, in a procedure known as peripheral blood stem cell donation (PBSC). You’ll receive a series of four hormone injections to make your stem cells multiply into the bloodstream. Then you’ll head to a clinic, where the stem cells will be extracted from one arm, and your blood returned to the other.
“And that’s it! Some people report flu-like symptoms from the hormone injections, but these are usually mild and vanish within a few days. Only 1 in 10 donors will have their stem cells collected via the bone marrow itself, while under general anaesthetic. If you’re on the register, you need to be happy to donate your stem cells via either method.”
How can Round Table and Anthony Nolan #DoMore together?
“We desperately need more young males to join the register. Young men currently only make up 15% of the stem cell register but provide over half of all lifesaving donations. And that’s exactly where Round Table and Anthony Nolan can work together, helping both organisations to grow and do more. Additionally, we need to enrich our register through diversification. If someone needs a stem cell transplant, their donor needs to be a genetic match for them. Usually that means they’ll need to come from the same ethnic background. So if you come from an ethnic minority in the UK, or you’re mixed-race, there will be a much smaller pool of potential matches to choose from. That makes it far less likely that we’ll be able to find you a lifesaving match. Overall, patients from a black, Asian, or minority ethnic background has under a 20% chance of finding the best possible match. We’re working hard to improve that, but we desperately need more young people from ethnic minority backgrounds to join our register and change the odds of survival. We are dedicated to increasing this figure to provide hope to as many people as possible.
“In 1986 the Anthony Nolan register was changed forever, when incredible efforts by Round Table led to 100,000 people joining the register in just six weeks! Thirty years later, we still very much value your commitment to support Anthony Nolan and want you to be part of this lifesaving legacy. There are lots of ways you can get involved with Anthony Nolan and we would love to have your support:
- Join your local Round Table and one of the marrow groups from your region – a great chance to meet groups of people wanting to #DoMore in the local community and help save a life!
- Raise awareness for the groups in your community and through social media – share how easy it is to save a life and help raise the profile of the work we both do
- Get involved in a fundraising event, maybe a marathon or an Anthony Nolan social event. It costs £60 to add each person to the register, so we would love you to get involved and help us ensure we can increase the register to as many people as possible. Check out our website on upcoming fundraising events here.
More on how to help save a life
If you’re between 16 – 30 and in good health, you can sign up to the Anthony Nolan register (you’ll stay on it until you turn 60). We’ll send you a spit kit in the post so that you can give us a quick saliva sample.
If you’re over 30, visit the Anthony Nolan website to find out about the UK’s other registries and alternative ways to help save a life. Whenever a patient with blood cancer or a blood disorder needs a lifesaving stem cell transplant, we search the register, looking for someone who’s a genetic match for that patient. If you’re a match, we’ll be in touch, and we’ll ask you to donate if you’re still healthy and happy to do so.
If you wish to find out more about both Anthony Nolan and Round Table then head to anthonynolan.roundtable.co.uk