It is a never-ending cycle, maintaining a large enough blood supply to meet the community’s medical needs.
“It’s a constant challenge because only 5% of the population in the United States donates, it’s a very small percentage,” says Nancy Hendrick, Community Relations Coordinator for Lee Memorial Blood Center.
Most people understand the need to collect blood for emergencies; along with surgery they’re the top uses for blood. But fewer people understand the connection between cancer and blood donations.
“We have the regional cancer center, now they use an average of about 320 to 350 red blood cells a month,” says Hendrick.
Thos are blood unites which are used in transfusions. Regional Cancer Center nurse Jenny Donahue helps administer them.
“We have chemotherapy patients that become anemic, typically blood products are given because of anemia or low platelets, bleeding disorders.”
Some cancers, especially digestive ones may cause internal bleeding which can lead to anemia. Cancers that start in the bone marrow, such as leukemia can affect the production and lifespan of red blood cells. Long-term cancer treatment can lead to chronic anemia. It makes cancer patients among the top users of blood products.
“When the physician feels that that patient is to the point where they’re anemia, they’re symptomatic or their blood counts are low they would require a transfusion,” says Donahue.
It’s one side effect that few cancer patients expect.
“And maybe they don’t realize until they get to that part of their family member or somebody that has it, to realize the importance of the products,” says Hendrick.
Given the number of people suffering from cancer, it makes the case for blood donation run much deeper.