Young men, for a number of reasons, make the best bone marrow donors2. By increasing the proportion of young men (i.e. 18-25) on the register above the current figure of less than 10%, Anthony Nolan can provide more donors for patients in need of a transplant.
Yet more worrying is the fact that there is an urgent need to recruit more volunteer donors from black and minority ethnic backgrounds to Anthony Nolan’s bone marrow register.
Tissue type is not random, but inherited. Patients in need of a bone marrow transplant – which will often be their only remaining chance of survival – are more likely to find a compatible donor from within their own ethnic community, so it’s vital that people from black and minority ethnic groups come forward as potential donors.
The week-long campaign (November 20-26) aptly titled, ‘Men – what makes you so special?’ aims to reverse this situation by challenging young men to give up half an hour of their time and sign up with the UK’s most successful bone marrow register.
An independent survey3 commissioned by the charity revealed that more than half of those questioned (57%) think the bone marrow donation process causes a lot of discomfort.
The research showed that 46% of Asians questioned said that a fear of needles would put them off from joining the register. Just over a quarter (26%) mistakenly believed that you needed a long stay in hospital to donate bone marrow; the truth being that in most cases two 4-5 hour sessions in hospital with no overnight stay is required.
The process of joining The Anthony Nolan register takes around 30 minutes (including giving a small sample of blood). No further tests or hospital visits are required until Anthony Nolan identifies a potential match from their register for a patient in need of a bone marrow transplant.
There was also a widespread misunderstanding regarding the issue of donating bone marrow to people outside of your family. 46% of Asians and 41% of black people questioned believed that you can only donate to a member of your own family. Actually you can donate to anyone with whom you have a matching tissue type, a complete stranger in fact.
Azra Iqbal, one of Anthony Nolan’s managers responsible for recruiting black and minority ethnic people to the register, says: “One of the biggest challenges we face in recruiting potential donors is the public’s lack of understanding over issues such as what the procedure involves, how painful it will be and how long it will take. These misconceptions are common across the UK, among both men and women – although it does appear to be a particular issue within black and minority ethnic communities.”
Azra adds; “We now hold clinics specifically aimed to encourage greater uptake among black and minority ethnic groups – often in community centres or recognised meeting places. It’s much harder to find donors for black and minority ethnic patients who desperately need a transplant so our message to all young men is clear – your community needs you, NOW!”
At any one time around 7,000 people with potentially life-threatening blood disorders, such as leukaemia, are looking for suitable donors. So the charity has a continuous need to recruit more donors, especially young men. In many cases, a bone marrow transplant offers patients their last remaining chance of survival.
Actress Phina Oruche, adds: “I ran the Flora London Marathon in spring to raise
awareness and money and the needs don’t change when the publicity from such a major event stops. What we really need constantly is young brothers, 18-25, to stand up in number to be counted. There are thousands of people out there whose lives could be changed or saved by a bone marrow transplant and I would like to urge young men from black and minority ethnic backgrounds to come forward and give a little of their time to help support such an important cause.”