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One Way to Fight Cancer – Give Blood, Platelets 

CancerWise - May 2007

By Darcy De Leon

Not everyone has money to donate to the fight against cancer, but they have two resources that don’t cost a thing – blood and platelets. This month is the perfect time to donate these scarce commodities, which are dangerously low in summer months.

Because the demand is so great at cancer centers, blood supplies are continually depleted and donors are needed, says F. Enrique Alvarez, laboratory coordinator for training and education at the M. D. Anderson Blood Bank.

There’s never enough

There is a tremendous difference between the cancer patient population and other populations needing blood components. “A trauma center uses a lot of blood at one time on one patient; cancer patients use a lot of blood all the time,” Alvarez says.

Platelets are blood components that form clots, which prevent patients from bleeding.

“General hospitals may transfuse 100 platelets in a month,” he says.
“M. D. Anderson transfuses 450 to 500 units of platelets each day. Blood and platelet transfusions are an integral part of a cancer patient’s treatment.”

Small percentage of people actually donate

M. D. Anderson transfuses more than 150,000 blood components (red blood cells, platelets, plasma) each year and is considered the largest hospital-based transfusion service in the United States serving the needs of cancer patients.

Although 65% of the national population is able to donate blood, only 5% actually follow through, Alvarez says. M. D. Anderson’s blood bank collects blood and also purchases blood components from regional blood centers. However, it is still not enough.

“We probably collect one-fourth of what we need, so that’s why promoting the donation of blood components is so important,” Alvarez says.

To donate blood and platelets, visit your local blood center or call a cancer center near you. If you are a potential donor living in the Houston area, visit the
M. D. Anderson Blood Bank, or call 713-792-7777.


© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center