Platelets are small cells that stop bleeding by forming clots; they are essential for those fighting cancer, disease and traumatic injuries. Cancer, trauma, transplant and burn patients all use platelets in order to survive.
What are Platelets?
Platelets are stem cell fragments made in your bone marrow. These cells bind together to help repair damaged blood vessels and stop bleeding.
If you have a cut or a scrape, for example, platelets will stick together causing the blood to clot and stop the bleeding. Because platelets only live in the body for about 10 days, your bone marrow creates millions of platelets daily.
But for people who do not make enough platelets, a small cut can lead to a dangerous amount of blood loss.
About 38% of platelet donations are used for cancer patients
The body has trillions of living cells that grow and divide into new cells. Cancer develops when abnormal cells grow at a rapid rate.
People fighting cancer receive blood and platelets during their treatment for a variety of reasons.
Why cancer patients need platelets
Some cancers can cause internal bleeding, which can lead to anemia. Anemia is a condition that develops when your blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin.
Low Blood Count
Cancer can affect the bone marrow, crowding out blood-making cells.
When patients have surgery to remove tumors, they often need blood transfusions to replace the blood lost during the operation.
Drugs can affect bone marrow health, causing a drop in white blood cells and platelets.
Radiation therapy removes, kills and damages cancer cells, along with a lot of healthy cells as well. It can also affect bone marrow’s ability to create new cells, both leading to low blood cell counts.
Bone Marrow Transplants
Patients who undergo bone marrow transplants often need blood or platelet donations during the procedure to help replace the blood lost.
Platelets are used for cancer, trauma, burn and surgery patients to assist with blood clotting and stop internal and external bleeding.
Sara needed platelets after giving birth
Sara suffered a massive post-partum hemorrhage after giving birth to her second child. “I had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel,” says Sara, as she remembers the day blood donors saved her life.
As doctors struggled to stop the bleeding they transfused a total of 12 pints of blood and 8 pints of platelets. Blood and platelets saved Sara's life. Read more about Sara's story as a platelet and blood recipient.