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Why Cancer Patients Need More Blood Than Those Fighting Any Other Disease

Photo: Courtesy of Obi Onyeador

Dr. Pampee Young

Chief Medical Officer, American Red Cross

Nearly one-quarter of the nation’s blood supply goes to patients fighting cancer. Blood donors play a vital role in their care.

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Patients fighting cancer need more blood than those fighting any other disease. This need is part of the reason why the American Red Cross encourages people across the country to give blood regularly, ensuring loved ones have the strength and support to battle cancer.  

According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 3 people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. In 2020 alone, it was expected that approximately 1.8 million new cancer cases would be diagnosed in the United States. However, delayed routine cancer screenings during the height of the pandemic might have impacted timely cancer diagnosis. Many people undergoing treatment for cancer will likely have a need for blood. 


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An increased need

Some types of chemotherapy can damage bone marrow, reducing red blood cell and platelet production. Other times, the cancer itself or surgical procedures cause the problem. Blood products are often needed. In fact, someone undergoing cancer treatment requires five units of blood every minute. 

In spite of this, only 3 percent of people in the United States give blood. More people are needed to donate regularly to help meet the need.


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A loved one’s cancer diagnosis often makes families and friends feel helpless. That’s why giving blood and platelets is so important. When someone donates blood or platelets, they are helping to give patients and their families time, resources, and the hope they need to fight back. And by donating, individuals can feel empowered that they are doing something meaningful to help. 

The need for blood in cancer treatments is an important and untold story. People can help and make a meaningful difference in the lives of patients and their families by giving blood or platelets. Cancer can take so much from those affected by it. Individuals can honor their loved ones by making a blood or platelet donation. 

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Giving blood is quick and easy. The whole process takes only about an hour, and only about 10 minutes of that time is spent on the donation bed. With an hour of time, blood donors can help give a lifetime to someone fighting cancer.  

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