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Welsh Blood Service

Younger generation urged to ‘help fight against blood cancer’

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The first person to ever donate bone marrow in Wales is calling on more 17 to 30-year-olds to help fight against blood cancer ahead of World Cancer Day (Friday 4 February).

Each year three in ten blood cancer patients will not find the potentially life-saving bone marrow match they need, which is why Julie Penketh and the Welsh Blood Service are encouraging more people to join the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

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Since donating her bone marrow three decades ago, Julie has continued to urge others to join by donating blood or by returning a home-delivered, needle-free swab-kit, which can be ordered in minutes online.

Receiving a swab kit through the post (Image: Welsh Blood Service)

Julie commented: “If you’re fit, healthy, and aged between 17 and 30, you must consider joining the Registry. The new swab-kit service only takes a few minutes, you can do it in the privacy of your home at a time that suits you, and you could go on to save someone’s life.

“It’s a really proud feeling thinking I may have helped someone in need, and I hope more people will come forward knowing what a difference they can make. Overall, my donation experience was a hugely positive one and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all again.

“I have children and grandchildren now. Touch wood none of them will need a transplant like this, but you never know. I would urge anyone eligible to do something amazing today and sign up to the panel.”

Blood cancers stop bone marrow from working correctly and for these patients, the best hope of recovery is to receive a bone marrow transplant. Registries across the globe are searched every day by healthcare professionals looking for suitable bone marrow matches for their blood cancer patients.

Dr Keith Wilson, a Consultant Haematologist at University Hospital of Wales, explains: “Blood cancer patients worldwide face a daily, and increasingly urgent, search for a suitable bone marrow match. The requirements for matching a patient with a bone marrow donor are very specific, which is why we need to continue increasing the number of people on the Registry. This is the best way to give more blood cancer patients the chance to overcome the disease.”

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Currently, over 50,000 patients across the globe are hoping to find a suitable bone marrow match from an unrelated donor.

Christopher Harvey, Head of the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry, said: “The chances of being chosen as the perfect match for a patient anywhere in the world is extremely rare, but the opportunity to find a life-saving match increases as more donors sign up.

“It’s an awe-inspiring concept. You could be the one and only person in the world who could be the match – and that’s why we need more people to sign up to the Welsh Bone Marrow Registry and increase a patient’s chance of survival.”

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