Do Not Give Up Stem Cell Donation During Covid-19 Period

Do not give up stem cell donation in the covid period
Do not give up stem cell donation in the covid period

Although there are thousands of people in our country waiting for stem cell donation, especially with leukemia patients, many misinformation is circulating in our society such as the permanent side effect and painful process after donation and the need for hospitalization.

Pfizer Oncology and Twentify research firm, to eliminate such wrong information and to draw attention to the awareness of stem cell donation "Turkey Stem Cell Donation Awareness Survey" was carried out.

Anadolu Medical Center Hematological Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation Center Director, Member of European and American Bone Marrow Transplantation Associations Prof. Dr. Zafer Gülbaş shared important information on research outputs and stem cell donation.

Stem cells are cells that have the ability to constantly renew themselves and transform into different, fully mature cells. When needed, they transform into cells after them, allowing cells to develop, mature and reproduce.

Healthy stem cells are essential for life. Stem cell transplantation is emerging as one of the best treatment options for the treatment of hematological cancers and bone marrow failure. Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, sometimes called bone marrow transplant, is applied as a procedure that allows the patient to be given healthy hematopoietic stem cells. 

Remarkable results from stem cell donation awareness research

The study was conducted with a total of 7 900 people from Turkey's cities in the geographical area. The research group, which consists of 57% men and 43% women, is 43% high school graduates and 30% university graduates.

  • 25% of the participants think that leukemia can occur in all age groups. This rate is higher in women and people with a higher socioeconomic level.
  • 72% of the participants have the perception that leukemia is a disease seen in children.
  • 61% of the participants state that they do not know any type of leukemia.
  • Only 25% of respondents know that leukemia can be seen at any age.
  • 65% of the participants thought that leukemia is a partially or completely treatable disease,
  • 17% of the participants do not know if there is any treatment for leukemia.
  • 73% of the participants state that they have heard of stem cell donation before. But overall, 41% of the participants have no information about stem cell donation.
  • 72% of the participants do not know or have the wrong information about which types of cancer can be donated for stem cell treatment.

The two biggest reservations about becoming a donor

According to the research, the two biggest concerns of the participants about being a donor: there will be permanent side effects (34%) and it will be very painful during the procedure (32%).
In the research;

  • 87% of the participants state that no one in their environment, including themselves, is a stem cell donor.
  • Only 32% of the participants know where and how stem cell donation is made.
  • 76% of the participants say they can be a stem cell donor.

Many patients survive and recover with stem cell donation

Anadolu Medical Center Hematological Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation Center Director, Member of European and American Bone Marrow Transplantation Associations Prof. Dr. Victory Gulbas He said: “Every organ has a stem cell. But today, the most talked about part of stem cells is the stem cell in the bone marrow, which we call hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cells. The importance of donating stem cells is as follows: When a person has a disease such as leukemia, lymphoma, aplastic anemia, and myeloma, the disease of the patients is eliminated and their lives are saved by performing stem cell transplantation primarily in these diseases but less frequently in other diseases. Therefore, if you donate stem cells, you will ensure that many diseased people hold on to life and recover. Therefore, stem cell donation is very important and the success of any treatment method other than stem cell transplantation is generally low in these diseases.

In our country, nearly 5000 people a year expect stem cell donation

Turko Turkey in the name of the Republic of Turkey was established by the Ministry of Health Coordination Center of Stem Cells Expressing that Turkey is an important achievement in the last five years, signed Prof. Dr. Victory Gulbas his words continued: "At the moment has more than 700.000 donors in Turkey. But it is beneficial to increase this number. When we increase this number even more, we will save more people's lives. The functioning of the system in TÜRKÖK and the donation rates are really proud. We can say that the current functioning of our Ministry of Health on this subject is an example to the world. There are 25 million stem cell donors in the world, so there is enough awareness in other countries. The largest stem cell donation program in the world is in Germany and has nearly 5 million donors. We have the same population as Germany, but our donor number is around 700.000. Therefore, our goal should be to increase this number to 5 millions, the number of donors should increase, therefore awareness-raising programs and projects stem cell donation will make a significant contribution to awareness. In our country, nearly 5000 people a year expect stem cell donation. "

Stem cell donation is required for these diseases

Prof. Dr. Victory Gulbas“Stem cell donation is particularly necessary in leukemia, lymphoma and aplastic anemia. In chronic leukemia types, stem cell donation is required in only 5 to 10 percent of patients, thanks to new drug therapies developed. Donations are required in 30 to 40 percent of patients with aplastic anemia. Mainly, stem cell donation is required in myelodysplastic syndrome and acute leukemia, where the bone marrow cannot produce enough healthy blood cells. These diseases are mainly the patients we undergo stem cell transplantation ”.

Mistakes in stem cell donation

Stating that there are some mistakes about stem cell donation Prof. Dr. Victory Gulbas He continued as follows: “When you donate stem cells, you may not be able to replace these cells again, it can make you cancerous and there is false information that the cells in your blood may be reduced. These are very popular among the public, but none of them are true. Turkey Stem Cell Donation Awareness Survey also revealed awareness and find it very useful to draw attention to this issue.

Donors can donate in two ways; The first is made of bone marrow and the other is made of arm blood. Especially in aplastic anemia and chronic myeloid leukemia, stem cell collection from bone marrow is beneficial in some diseases seen in children. Apart from that, we do the stem cell collection process from the arm. We give injections in the morning and evening for five days to increase the amount of stem cells in the bone marrow in the arm. After five days, stem cells pass from the bone marrow into the blood. We enter the vein in one arm with a needle, the blood comes into the cell separator device, and we separate the stem cells in it and return all the remaining blood to the patient from the other arm. When the procedure is over, the patient walks and returns to work. The process takes about 3,5 hours and the person replaces these cells within an average of two weeks. There is nothing missing from the body, it is not possible to give an organ and lose that organ as in other kidney transplantation or liver transplantation. "

If you want to save lives, donate stem cells

Especially if people between the ages of 20 and 40 want to save someone's life and want to feel the enthusiasm of this in their lives, they should definitely enroll in voluntary blood donation programs in the blood centers of Kızılay. Prof. Dr. Victory Gulbas: “With this registration, check-up is also applied. During this process, hepatitis B and many tests are performed, and detailed check-up is provided when stem cells are collected. This check up is much more detailed than normal and if it is determined that it will harm the person, donation is not allowed. Therefore, the donor should go to the nearest blood center and fulfill the necessary procedures by being included in the stem cell donation program ”.

Don't put out hopes of those waiting for donations due to COVID-19

Stating that they had difficulties in stem cell donation during the COVID-19 period Prof. Dr. Gulbas“We are faced with the following problem: The volunteer donor was found and the patient donor was found, the donor was reached, the donor came to donate and had the tests done. Then he does not donate because I get COVID-19, he gives up. This situation has increased by about 20-25 percent among donors. However, those with COVID-19 problems cannot enter stem cell collection centers this year. In centers, the chances of getting COVID-19 are not higher than in the streets.
Those who are registered as current donors: Please continue the transaction with which you are matched as donor. Because to the patient; When we say "the donor was found but gave up", you destroy all the hopes of the patient and indeed a very devastating trauma emerges in the patient. Either they should not visit the centers for donations and volunteer them, or they should continue treatment until the end when they start. I am sorry to say that during the COVID-19 period, none of the donors we found abroad did not give up. However, up to 25 percent of donors gave in Turkey. It is really wrong, donor candidates should not be afraid in vain. When they come to the centers, this process is carried out in a separate room and by taking necessary precautions, they can feel safe. Please go and make a contribution to the patients. There is no better feeling than saving people's lives. When we, as physicians, our patients recover, that feeling is enough for us in every aspect. Anyway, this is the most important aspect of loving the profession… Normal people do what we want to provide to the patient without a doctor. How happy are they! ”

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