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Cancer Patients Rely on Blood Donations & Transfusions

Donate Blood - Help a Cancer Patient Fight Cancer...

Donate Blood – Help a Cancer Patient Fight Cancer…

Blood is vital for the treatment of cancer patients, as well as for cancer patients needing blood transfusions – read CANSA’s Fact Sheet Utilising Blood Products for Cancer Patients:

  • A blood transfusion is a procedure in which blood or a blood component is transferred from one individual (donor) to another (recipient).
  • Transfusions are used to replace lost components of blood, the most common components being platelets, red blood cells, plasma and cryoprecipitate.

Why Do Cancer Patients Need Blood Transfusions?

  • Cancer treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation, or the cancer itself may cause the need for a transfusion.

Which Blood Components Are Received by Cancer Patients During Transfusions?

  • Red blood cells: Red blood cells contain haemoglobin, an iron-rich protein that carries oxygen throughout the body to vital organs and tissues. They are used to treat anaemia (a low number of red blood cells), which can be caused by cancer and /or cancer treatment.
  • Cryoprecipitate: Cryoprecipitate is the part of plasma that separates as frozen plasma slowly thaws. It contains a higher concentration of blood clotting proteins than regular plasma. This blood component is not often needed by patients with cancer.
  • Plasma: Plasma is the pale yellow liquid portion of the blood in which cells travel. It carries proteins that help control bleeding and antibodies that help fight infection. A plasma transfusion may be needed if a person has experienced severe bleeding.
  • Platelets: Platelets are tiny fragments of cells made in the bone marrow and released into the blood stream in the same way as red blood cells. They are critical to blood clotting, which is the process that stops bleeding. When cancer and /or cancer treatment causes a person’s platelet level to fall too low, a transfusion may be given to reduce the risk of serious or life-threatening bleeding.

Become a Blood Platelet Donor & Improve A Cancer Patient’s Chance of Survival

  • Donated blood platelets can only be stored for 5 days and thus platelet donors are in great demand.
  • Platelets are essential to stop bleeding and bruising and for the treatment of patients with cancers and leukaemia, who have too few platelets, as a result of their disease or treatment.
  • The platelet donation process differs from donating whole blood & you need to be screened before becoming a donor.

Screening Process:

  • A platelet pre-test has to be done first to determine if your platelet count is high enough before you become a platelet donor.
  • You would need to book an appointment with one of the SANBS centres that offer this special service.
  • The procedure takes 60 – 90 minutes.
  • You will be served sandwiches and refreshments of your choice while the cell separator machine is taking the very precious platelets/plasma from you.
  • The platelets and a small amount of plasma are automatically collected into a bag and the rest of the blood, including the red cells, are returned to you.
  • You can donate every 14 – 28 days.

How to Donate Blood or Become a Blood Platelet Donor:

Queries CANSA

For more info contact our Toll Free Information Centre on 0800 22 66 22 or email us at

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