By Dr Caroline Hilton

Did you know that cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide? Cancer, simply speaking, refers to the uncontrolled multiplication of abnormal cells in a part of the body, which destroys the tissues around it. Cancer cells can spread to different parts of the body through the blood and lymphatic systems. According to the World Health Organisation, breast, lung, colon and prostate cancers are the most common types. There have been great advancements in the management of cancer, and blood products often form an important part of the patient’s treatment plan.

So, why would a person with cancer need blood products?

  • The cancer itself may result in bleeding by growing into nearby blood vessels, and blood products would be needed to replace the blood cells that are lost. Colon and stomach cancers often cause internal bleeding that may go unnoticed for a long time.
  • Cancer can originate in the bone marrow (like leukaemia) or spread to the bone marrow. Bone marrow is found in the centre of our bones and is the amazing factory where blood cells are produced. Cancer growing in the marrow can obliterate these blood-producing cells, so transfusions may be needed to replace red blood cells and platelets.
  • Treatment of cancer using certain types of chemotherapy and radiation can also destroy the bone marrow. These treatments work by targeting rapidly dividing cancer cells, but they unfortunately also damage other fast-growing cells in the bone marrow, gut lining and hair follicles. This is the reason why some people feel nauseous and lose their hair when certain treatment regimens are used.
  • Another reason why a cancer patient may need blood products would be if they underwent surgery to remove a tumour and there was significant blood loss. This commonly happens as cancerous cells infiltrate blood vessels, making it difficult to remove tumours without bleeding.

We salute all patients who are battling cancer and commit to providing them with the safest blood products possible. Thank you to our donors for selflessly volunteering to help us achieve this goal.