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How we can defeat blood cancer together

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blood cancer

Blood Cancer typically means malignancies of the blood, bone marrow or lymph nodes that affect normal blood cell production or function. However, misinformation and lack of awareness about blood cancer and its types are the biggest challenge observed today amongst the Indian population. What most people are unaware of is that blood cancer can be managed, and a patient can have a second chance at life via a stem cell transplant, which is often the best treatment for those suffering.

Of all types of Blood Cancers, here are the three most common types of blood cancer that affects the Indianpopulation mentioned in order of the rate of incidence.

  • Lymphoma is the name for a group of blood cancers that develop in the lymphatic system. The two main types are Hodgkin lymphoma (generally starts in blood and bone marrow) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (generally starts in lymph node and lymphatic tissue.)
  • Leukemia is a blood cancer that develops when normal blood cells change and grow uncontrollably. There are four main types named according to the cells affected (myeloblasts, lymphocytes) and whether the disease starts with mature or immature cells (chronic, acute).
  • Multiple Myeloma starts in the bone marrow when plasma cells begin to grow uncontrollably. As the cells grow, they compromise the immune system and impair the production and function of white and red blood cells causing bone disease, organ damage and anemia among other conditions.

SOME OF THE MAJOR DISEASES THAT BENEFIT FROM STEM CELL TRANSPLANTS

Stem cell transplants are used predominantly in patients with cancers arising from the blood or plasma cells, including Lymphoma, Leukemia, Myeloma and Hodgkin disease & other blood disorders such as Aplastic Anemia & Thalassemia. A successful blood stem-cell transplant increases a patient’s survival rate by 90%. Sometimes the only treatment option for survival of a blood cancer patient is with a stem-cell transplant.

While misinformation and/or lack of information is the biggest challenge faced by all potential blood stem cell donors today, multiple myths associated with a stem cell donation pose a greater threat. These include a commonly believed notion that a few health risks are associated with the procedure, you are putting your life at risk in the procedure etc. Existing information about an outdated procedure to perform the process of stem cell extraction also remains a constant roadblock.

A successful stem-cell transplant requires a perfect HLA type. There is a possibility of finding the perfect match from a donor of the same ethnicity. Sadly, patients of Indian ethnicity have a hard time in finding a match due to lack of potential donors in a registry. This is mainly because many know that they can be potential life saver for people suffering from the blood cancer and related disorders.

With blood stem cell transplant sometimes being the only life saving option for the patient, Indian donors need to have a better representation in a stem cell registry. Thus, there is a need to create awareness about the disorders and the need for individuals to come forward and register as potential life savers.

(Writer is Patrick Paul, CEO, DKMS BMST Foundation India. Views expressed are a personal opinion.)

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