Ivor Hobbs from the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) tells us how donated blood helps cancer patients.
What are donated blood and blood products used for?
There are numerous uses for blood and blood products. The most common uses are:
- Treatment of medical conditions, such as anaemia or cancer.
- Complications which arise during childbirth.
- Scheduled operations.
- Paediatric patients who have haematological issues and trauma.
Blood products are also used in the creation of immunoglobulins. These help with preventing and treating conditions, such as rabies, shingles and tetanus. In addition, blood products are even used to make specialised eye serums and a wide variety of other critically important products.
How much donated blood is used for cancer patients?
Approximately over 6% of blood goes to oncology patients exclusively. However, many oncology patients also receive blood from the medical category and ICU.
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What blood products are needed for the different types of cancers?
The situations differ from case to case depending on the treatments prescribed. But, generally, cancer patients make use of red blood cells and tend to be treated with much more platelets compared to other patients.
How many blood types are there?
There are four main blood types O, B, A and AB; your blood type is inherited from your parents. Blood types are also differentiated through the Rh (Rhesus blood group) system. Each of the four main blood types may or may not have the Rh factor present. The blood group is then classified as either ‘positive’ (meaning it has Rh factor) or ‘negative’ (without Rh factor).
Group O blood is not only the most common blood type (around 45% of the population has it) but it is also the most used.
Group O negative can be issued to any other patient irrespective of blood type. That is why it is known as the universal donor. It can be issued to any patients in an emergency when there is not enough time to match the patient’s blood with donor blood. Furthermore, group O negative patients can only receive O negative blood.
Group AB is the rarest, while AB positive is known as the universal recipient as it can receive blood from any of the other blood types.
SANBS encourages people with group A and AB blood to consider platelet donation. Platelets are collected through a process, called apheresis, meaning ‘to take out’; and the red blood cells and plasma are returned to the donor’s body. The majority of the apheresis platelets, collected by SANBS, go to cancer patients.
How do you find out what type of blood you have?
You can find out your blood type the next time you donate, or contact SANBS customer service (0800 11 90 31 or firstname.lastname@example.org) two days after your donation and they will assist you.
Furthermore, SANBS does sometimes conduct blood grouping sessions at Wellness Days or promotions, but the blood from every person who donates is tested extensively for HIV, hepatitis B and C, syphilis and of course blood type.
What is the criteria if you want to donate blood?
- Be between the ages of 16 – 65 to be first time donor.
- Weigh over 50kg.
- You need to be in good health.
- Must lead a safe and lifestyle.
- Consider your blood safe for transfusion to another patient.
MEET OUR EXPERT – Ivor Hobbs
Ivor Hobbs is a regional marketing manager at the South African National Blood Service. He has an honours degree in Business Communications and has worked at the SANBS for 10 years in various marketing positions.