Blood donation photo
Healthy Living

How Blood Donations Help Cancer Patients

Feb 21 2022

Currently, the American Red Cross is experiencing its worst shortage of blood donations in a decade. This shortage impacts a wide variety of patients. 

“Blood donation and the blood supply are critical to so many different aspects of health care,” John Montville, executive director of oncology at Mercy Health – Lourdes Hospital, shares. “The blood that people donate helps keep alive people who’ve suffered a traumatic injury as well as people who need blood during surgery and other procedures. It’s important as a life-saving tool. People don’t think about blood donation until they need it. When they need blood, they usually need it quickly.”

There’s another type of patient for whom blood donations play an important role – cancer patients.

“A big challenge for people in cancer treatment is keeping them in their treatment plan,” John explains. “Their chance for a better outcome and long-term, disease-free survival is directly related to their ability to get through treatment as planned.”

Cancer treatment is tough on patients. Chemotherapy and radiation kill cancer cells as well good cells the body needs to function well.

“These treatments can lower a patient’s blood cell counts considerably, leaving the patient with side effects such as anemia and feeling tired, weak, faint and short of breath,” John shares. “If the red blood cells drop below a certain point, the patient’s doctor will want to increase those levels so we can continue cancer treatment. Red blood cells from blood donations keep patients well enough to receive treatment.”

In addition to helping care for patients needing blood urgently, donated blood also helps shape the care of future patients.

“Researchers also use donated blood to research new cancer treatments,” John reveals.

Thanks to a well-managed protocol for using blood supplies, John and the care team at Lourdes Hospital have the blood they need to care for patients. However, he’s still concerned about the overall supply.

“Blood supplies are lower than I’ve ever seen during the course of my 30 years in health care,” John says. “These are sick people and they need care. You can only give so much of your own blood. We need a lot of people doing that. If we all went out and gave blood like we’re supposed to, we’d have too much blood. We wouldn’t be able to use it all. However, very few people donate regularly. It’s vital to get out and give blood. It saves lives.”

Again, the American Red Cross is experiencing its worst shortage of blood donations in a decade. You can donate at a local blood drive to support the people in your community. Find an ARC blood drive near you.

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