Roll up your sleeves regularly to support blood cancer patients | Leukaemia Foundation

Roll up your sleeves regularly to support blood cancer patients

Monday, 10 June 2019

The Leukaemia Foundation is challenging more Australians to step up and become one of the 18 monthly blood donors it takes to treat just one person living with blood cancer this National Blood Donor Week.

More than 100,000 Australians are currently affected by blood cancer, and Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch said many of these people require regular donated blood products to manage their cancer, either as part of a life-saving treatment plan or to counter the side effects caused by their cancer treatment.

“For some people with chronic blood conditions and cancers, their blood isn’t functioning properly at all, so they rely on donated blood products to replace their blood so they can live a normal life,” he said.

“In other cases, the blood cancer treatment the patient undergoes actually kills their blood cells which puts them at risk, so they need donated blood products to replace the functions these cells would usually have performed.

“What many people don’t realise is the sheer volume of blood needed to support blood cancer patients, regardless of their situation.

“One 470ml blood donation unit includes red cells, plasma and platelets which are all separated out after donation. The reality is that on average, one acute leukaemia patient will need nine units – or 2.25 litres – of red blood cells alone each month, or just over 1 litre (36 units) of platelets each month during treatment.

“On a practical level, this means for every blood cancer patient, we need around 18 Australians to roll up their sleeves every month – not just once, but for every month of that patient’s treatment time, which can be anything from eight months on average through to a number of years for some blood cancer types.

“With 35 people every day diagnosed with a blood cancer in Australia and this number expected to increase to close to 50 people per day by 2025(1), we know more Australians will become critically reliant on blood products into the future.

“The need for blood products to support blood cancer patients doesn’t stop, so neither should blood donations, and that’s why we want to see more Australians making blood donation part of a regular routine rather than a once-off exercise.”

Australian Red Cross Blood Service spokesperson Erin Lagoudakis urged more Australians to give blood now and give blood often to support Australians in need, including cancer and blood disease patients who receive the majority of all blood donations.

“People may be surprised to learn more than a third of the blood donations we collect support cancer patients and those with blood diseases,” Ms Lagoudakis said.

“Many of us will know someone or have a loved one who may need blood in their lifetime, including those who need blood during surgery or child birth and those involved in road accidents, so we’re encouraging those who can to donate.”

The Leukaemia Foundation has thrown its support behind National Blood Donor Week, with several members of the Leukaemia Foundation team recently donating blood together at the Australian Red Cross Blood Service Brisbane Donor Centre.

“We want to encourage all our team members who are eligible to donate and who have never donated before to take the leap and become donor legends, and it is our hope that more organisations will follow suit and donate to support the growing number of people in our community living with blood cancer,” Mr Petch said.

National Blood Donor Week runs from 9-15 June and includes World Blood Donor Day on June 14.

To find out more about how you can support Australians living with blood cancer, visit www.leukaemia.org.au.

To join the fight against blood cancer by making a blood donation, visit www.donateblood.com.au.

1 https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/cancer/cancer-data-in-australia/contents/summary

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