Irish Blood Transfusion Service and Irish Cancer Society make urgent plea for more platelet donors

Platelets transfusions becoming an essential part of cancer treatment 

This morning at an event held in the Irish Blood Transfusion Service, national radio presenter, Ray DArcy, platelet donors and cancer survivors who received platelet donations during the course of their treatment, will gather to launch the first ever official Platelet Donation Awareness Day campaign. Platelet Donation Awareness Day is being organised by the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) in partnership with the Irish Cancer Society to put out an urgent plea for more people to come forward and donate platelets and give life saving treatment to cancer patients.

Platelets, a component of blood, made in the bone marrow cells, are essential to enable the blood to clot properly. Chemotherapy often damages the patients bone marrow cells where the platelets are made and make the patients prone to spontaneous bleeding. Cancer patients especially those with leukaemia, lymphoma or multiple myeloma (cancer of the bone marrow) often depend on platelet transfusions during their chemotherapy or bone marrow transplants in order for them to tolerate and benefit from their treatment.  On average approximately 514 new cases of lymphoma are diagnosed every year, 373 new cases of leukaemia and 187 new cases of multiple myeloma.

Speaking in advance of the Platelet Donation Awareness Day, Mr. Paddy Bowler, Director of Operations, Irish Blood Transfusion Service said, The demand for platelets in Ireland has increased by 50% over the past five years largely because of the number of new cases of cancer and the numbers of people undergoing chemotherapy, which is becoming increasingly sophisticated. It is estimated that 22,500 new cases of all types of cancer will be diagnosed in Ireland in 2007. The IBTS needs at least 22,000 donations of platelets per year in order to meet this demand. On average the IBTS issues approximately 90 units of platelets per day (over 500 units per week) to Irish hospitals and 90% of these are used in the treatment of cancer patients.

To meet the demand for platelet transfusions in Ireland, the IBTS collects platelets in two ways; pooled and apheresis;
o Pooled platelets are processed from whole blood donations. It takes four whole blood donations to produce one dose of platelets for patients.
o Apheresis is a special type of donation which separates the platelets from the rest of the blood through a special cell separator during donation. An apheresis donation collects the same amount of platelets as those pooled from 8-12 whole blood donations. The process takes 45 70 minutes depending on the donor.

The IBTS endeavours to limit patients exposure to many donors; therefore collecting platelets through apheresis is preferable to provide the safest possible product for the patient. The shelf-life of pooled platelets is only five days and the shelf-life of apheresis platelets can be extended from five to seven days. At present, only approximately 40% of platelets supplied to Irish hospitals are collected by apheresis and it is the aim of the IBTS in association with the Irish Cancer Society to recruit about 2,000 new platelet donors in order to supply 100% apheresis platelets within the next 3 years. The IBTS urges the general public to seriously consider signing up as platelet donors.
For further information on becoming a platelet donor text Platelet to 53377, email or telephone 01 432 2833. If you are based in Cork and are interested in finding out more about becoming a platelet donor, contact Sharon OKeeffe on 021 480 7430.

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If you are concerned or have been affected by cancer, call the National Cancer Helpline on Freefone 1800 200 700 (week days 9am 5pm, Tuesdays until 9pm).