Discover how the blood you give helps haematologists fight cancer.
Have you ever wondered what role your blood donation plays in treating cancer? Haematologist Maciej Tatarczuch is one of countless medical professionals who rely on the donations of blood donors to provide life-saving medical care to those in need.
As a haematologist, Dr Tatarczuch has been involved in over 100 clinical trials and provided life-saving therapies for countless patients with haematological cancers. Blood cancers do not discriminate, and in his career, Dr Tatarczuch has treated patients of all ages and backgrounds, but they all share one thing in common – the need for blood.
‘Without blood products, it would be very hard to do my job and certain conditions would be almost impossible to treat.’ - Dr Maciej Tatarczuch
Treating blood cancer requires the targeted use of chemotherapy on the body’s blood factory, more commonly known as bone marrow. Within our bones, we are continuously producing hematopoietic stem cells, which develop into red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and other essential parts of our immune system. Blood cancers often occur due to a mutation in these stem cells, and chemotherapy is used to eradicate them. While this is incredibly effective, without hematopoietic stem cells, the body cannot produce the essential components of blood, leaving cancer patients in a perilous position.
To combat this, doctors like Maciej recognised blood products could help support patients while they underwent chemotherapy. Red blood cell transfusions are used to raise the body’s blood count, ensuring a patient’s oxygen levels remain healthy, while platelet transfusions may be given to help prevent or treat bleeding. Plasma donations are also used to create clotting factors which can assist platelets in clotting wounds. Dr Tatarczuch emphasises that these transfusions aren’t like those given during surgery, where blood products may be required for a defined period of time, he explains, ‘In a cancer setting or especially in the haematology or blood cancer setting, these treatments can go for many months and sometimes years’.
According to the Leukaemia Foundation, a patient with acute leukaemia can require up to nine units (2.25 litres) of red cells, and 36 units (just over 1 litre) of platelets each month. This is why cancer patients are the largest users of blood donations in Australia. Over one-third of all red cells and two-thirds of platelets donated are currently used in the treatment of blood cancer. The demand is enormous, and without blood donors, Maciej and other medical professionals simply couldn’t provide the treatments they do. A sentiment he echoes, ‘Without blood products, it would be very hard to do my job and certain conditions would be almost impossible to treat.’
While cancer will remain one of the biggest health issues our community faces – we aren’t powerless. Everyone has a role to play in fighting this terrible disease. As a blood donor, you can provide the vital products medical professionals need, and for Maciej, your generosity won’t go unnoticed, ‘Every donation is greatly appreciated, from the staff who prescribe and manage the blood transfusions to the patients receiving them, and the doctors who treat them. It means so much.’ So, if you’re thinking of donating blood, don’t hesitate, know that the blood you give is life-saving and book a donation today.
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