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Donate your blood or bone marrow

Your blood or bone marrow donation could save the life of someone with a blood cancer.

About blood donation

Did you know that one third of donated red cells in Australia are used to help treat people with cancer and other blood diseases?

Blood donations are literally life-saving for many people with blood cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma.

A 470 ml blood donation is made of red cells, plasma and platelets, which are separated out after donation. On average, one acute leukaemia patient needs nine units (2.25 litres) of red cells each month, or 36 units (just over 1 litre) of platelets each month.

One average patient needs 18 people to donate blood each month. The average treatment time for leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma is eight months, but it can last for years.

So, a great way to support a loved one and others living with blood cancers is to donate blood.

How to donate blood

To donate or learn more, visit the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood website or call 13 14 95.

As many states in Australia have limited non-essential activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to remember that blood and plasma donation remains absolutely vital, and travel and venue restrictions do not prevent people from giving blood.

See the absolute latest information about donating blood products during the COVID-19 pandemic on the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood website here.

On behalf of Australia’s blood cancer community, please keep donating if you can.

About bone marrow donation

A bone marrow transplant can sometimes be the only treatment option for people with aggressive blood cancer.

Only one in three people find a matched bone marrow donor within their family. Two thirds rely on the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR) or other international registries to find a suitable match.

The ABMDR is a list of people who have registered to donate stem cells to help treat a person with blood cancer. It is linked to a worldwide network of donor registries. By joining the registry, you could be selected to help someone anywhere in the world — while staying right here in Australia.

Only one in 1,000 people registered will be asked to donate in any year. If you match with a patient, you’ll be contacted and asked to provide a second blood sample to confirm the match. Once you’re officially matched, you’ll receive counselling to ensure you are able and willing to donate.

Because your bone marrow tissue type is directly related to your ethnic origin, Australia needs more people who who reflect many different communities to register and help match more patients.

The Australia Bone Marrow Donor Registry is working closely with the Australian Government, the Bone Marrow Transplant Society of Australia and New Zealand and transplant centres to ensure donations from overseas are still able to be brought into Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have lots more information about the impact of COVID-19 on bone marrow and stem cell donations here.

How to become a bone marrow donor

Get started by contacting the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry. You can also contact the Registry direct on 13 14 95.

Find out more about COVID-19 and the effect on stem cell donations >

Jack’s special powers!

Jack Jacobson holding his swab test kit

When the Registry called and said I had been matched I felt like I had a unique opportunity to really help someone in need. It’s not often you get that sort of call.

The recipient didn’t need just anyone’s cells but specifically my cells because these had the best chance of success. I think this appeals to the little bit of vanity in all of us – almost as if donors have special powers in a time of need. But it also meant I was 100% committed to making the donation and I did not begrudge the minor aches and pains that came with it.

When I think about it now I know I was in a wonderfully privileged position to help the recipient, and I wholeheartedly hope they are well.

– Jack Jacobson, stem cell donor