Bone Marrow Donors Wanted, and Needed
By Joe Olvera ©, 2013
Bone Marrow Donors are needed. Must be of strong constitution, of a good heart and must be willing to help save people’s lives. To be sure, although doctors find bone marrow donors difficult to volunteer, it can be done. But, only if a person registers with the Match Registry – the new name for the Registry operated by the National Bone Marrow Program.
Doctors look for a donor who matches a patient’s tissue type or, more specifically, a human leukocyte antigen (HLA) tissue type. HLA are proteins, or markers, found on most cells in the body. An immune system uses these markers to recognize which cells belong in a person’s body and which do not. Unfortunately, for bone cancer patients, those matches are tough to find. Out of at least 9.5 million donors already registered, perhaps only one will find that he or she is a match for a particular patient. On average, one in every 540 members in the Registry in the U.S., will be able to match a patient – in effect – to save a person’s life.
Of course, there are also risks for the donor, a factor which often plays on a potential donor to help decide whether or not to become a donor. However, the procedure has been time-tested and the risks, although minimal, do exist. For example, when a person donates bone marrow for a transplant, a donor will be given anesthesia and taken to an operating room. The surgeon will make four small incisions on that donor’s back. A hollow needle is inserted through the skin into the pelvic bone so that bone marrow can be removed.
Some of the risks to the donor may occur because of the anesthesia, which can trigger adverse reactions. A donor may experience a dangerous drop in blood pressure or a suppressed rate of breathing. If the donor has an allergic reaction to the anesthesia, he may suffer breathing problems during the procedure. There is even a slight risk that a negative reaction will be severe enough to cause death. Another risk is that a donor may experience nerve damage. This may happen when the surgeon makes the incisions or when the hollow needle is inserted into the body to remove the marrow for the transplant. If one of the nerves is damaged, a donor may experience pain, difficulty of mobility or a loss of sensation.
Other risks to the donor include muscle and bone damage, infections during the healing process or bleeding from the incision sites during recovery. However, the chances of any of these complications occurring are actually slim to none. Most donors recover quickly and completely with no long-term problems, although it is best for donors to know that there are risks involved when deciding to donate bone marrow.
There are several types of bone cancer, with the most prevalent called Osteosarcoma. This cancer starts in the bone cells and most often occurs in young people ages 10 to 30. These cancerous tumors occur most often in the arms, legs, or pelvis. Chondrosarcoma is the second most common cancer to appear in a person’s body. This is a cancer of the cartilage cells. Other bone cancers include Ewing tumors, malignant fibrous histiocytoma, giant cell tumors of bones and chordona.
To give an idea of why bone marrow donors are in such high demand, keep in mind that half of all men and one-third of all women will develop a cancer of one type or another during their lifetimes. Today, millions of people are living with cancer, or have recovered from a cancer. The risk of developing a cancer can be offset with a person’s change of lifestyle, such as eliminating the use of tobacco, limiting time in the sun, becoming physically active, staying at a healthy weight, limiting alcohol and eating healthy. For instance, smoking can increase a person’s chances of developing cancer of the lungs, mouth, throat, bladder, kidneys, and other organs. Although not every person who smokes will develop cancer, the chances are increased for complications including heart and blood vessel disease.
Today, more than 13 million people have cancer. Some have been cured, while others are still fighting it. Years ago, many of those who had cancer died rapidly from its ravages. But, modern medicine and modern technology have increased the chances of survival. The most common methods to fight the cancerous cells are through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Of course, there is much more information about cancer, its causes and cures than can be listed in this article. If you are truly interested in becoming a bone marrow donor, study it – know the consequences, the risks involved, and, more important, know that your bone marrow can save a person’s life. To learn more, go to MatchRegistry.com, or call 1-800-627-7692. You’ll be glad you did.