Thousands desperately need transplant donors

Every year, thousands of people are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell anemia.

Many will die unless they get a bone marrow or umbiblical cord blood transplant from a matching donor, according to Be the Match Foundation.

Seventy percent of patients don’t have a donor in their family and depend on the National Marrow Donor Program operated by Be the Match to find a match through its registry.

A patient’s doctor chooses the donation method that’s best for the patient — either peripheral blood stem cells or bone marrow, according to the Be the Match website, http://marrow.org.

Donors can register by providing a swab of the inside of the cheek. If a donor matches a patient, he or she will be contacted and asked if they’d like to proceed. If so, they’ll be given detailed information and more testing will be scheduled.

A peripheral blood stem cell donation is done in a nonsurgical, outpatient procedure similar to donating plasma. About 76 percent of donations will be this one, according to Be the Match.

The donation of bone marrow is a surgical, outpatient procedure, done under general or regional anesthesia, in which liquid marrow is drawn from the back of the pelvic bone.

According to Be the Match, donor registrations are particularly needed for minority groups, which have varying likelihoods of having a matching donor on the registry:

African Americans, 66 percent

Hispanic or Latino, 72 percent

Asian or Pacific Islander, 73 percent.

American Indian or Alaska native, 82 percent.

White patients have the highest chance of finding a match, at 93 percent, according to the foundation.

“Patients are most likely to match someone of their own race or ethnicity,” according to Be the Match.