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Leukemia Bone Marrow Disease

Leukemia is a group of bone marrow diseases involving an uncontrolled increase in white blood cells (leukocytes). It is a type of cancer that hinders the growth of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, affects the bone marrow’s production of mature blood cells.

In a person with Leukemia, the bone marrow makes abnormal white blood cells called leukemia cells. Unlike normal blood cells, leukemia cells don’t die when they should. They may crowd out normal white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. This makes it hard for normal blood cells to do their work.

There are several treatment options that include chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant. A bone marrow transplant is a life-saving treatment for people with leukemia, lymphoma and many other diseases. First, patients undergo chemotherapy and sometimes radiation to destroy their diseased marrow. Then a donor’s healthy blood-forming cells are given directly into the patient’s bloodstream, where they can begin to function and multiply. For a patient’s body to accept these healthy cells, the patient needs a donor who is a close match.

Seventy percent of patients do not have a donor in their family and depend on the Be The Match Registry to find an unrelated bone marrow donor or umbilical cord blood.

A shortage of minority marrow donors continues to be a major problem for African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics and American Indians. Since tissue types are inherited, patients in need of a bone marrow transplant are most likely to match with someone from the same ethnic group.

Of the 5.5 million potential donors in the National Marrow Donor Program’s registry, only 430,000 are African-American, 400,000 Hispanic and 360,000 Asian. 

Anyone between the ages of 18 to 61 years old of any race who is in good health is eligible. Potential donors volunteer by getting their cheeks swabbed to figure out their tissue type. This information then gets stored in the National Marrow Donors registry.

Finding the right match is a detailed, involved process that essentially comes down to genetics. Each person inherits six tissue types – markers on white blood cells – from their parents, three from each. A successful donation requires the donor to have at least five of the same tissue types as the recipient. Once a donor is selected as a match they are then contacted by the registry for further testing.

 Barbara Gordon Bone Marrow Leukemia Awareness, Inc. strives to support Leukemia patients by giving insights on donor information, providing updates on the latest news in medical treatment, as well as working with county blood banks, hospitals, clinic, wellness centers and other organizations which can assist patients in their greatest time of need.

Links to additional information.

The National Cancer Institute
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
The Mayo Clinic
Kiwanis Club Of Pinecrest/Palmetto Bay


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