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November is National Marrow awareness month

November is National marrow awareness month in the US, so today we’ll take a closer look at how important donating bone marrow can be.

Who might need a bone marrow transplant?

Bone marrow transplants are used to replace damaged blood cells with healthy ones, and can be very useful in treating conditions affecting blood cells such as certain cancers. Lymphoma and leukemia are some examples of cancers that might be treated with bone marrow transplants.

Bone marrow transplants work by first destroying or removing any unhealthy blood cells before replacing them with stem cells gathered from the bone marrow donation.

These cells can then become either red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body, or white blood cells, which help your body fight off infection. Sometimes they became platelets, which can help stop bleeding. This kind of transplant is carried out when bone marrow is too damaged to produce healthy cells, and given the nature of the procedure, they are only carried out when other treatment options have not been successful first.

These procedures can be life-saving, and it can be monumentally important to donate marrow if you’re in a position to do so.

Who can become a donor?

Generally, the best matches for bone marrow transplants are from the affected person’s brother, sister, or another close family member. This is because in order for the transplant to be successful, the donor cells need to carry a genetic marker known as a human leukocyte antigen (HLA) that is as similar as possible to the person receiving the donation.

If no family members are a close enough match, then people seeking marrow transplants have to rely on national donor registries. While most people do eventually find a match, it can be a long wait and a very difficult time to wait.

How do I know if I’m a potential match for someone?

Choosing to donate marrow can save someone’s life, and the process for getting tested is actually fairly simple. In most cases, you’ll simply need to do a cheek swab. To find out how to get tested in your area and learn more about the donation process, visit Be The Match.

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