Deadly shortage of black stem cell donors

Black South Africans make up about 47 percent of all cancer patients but only 5 percent of donors in the nations bone marrow registry. The gap between those who may need bone marrow or stem cell transplants, and those able to provide them has deadly consequences for cancer patients.

Black South Africans make up about 47 percent of all cancer patients but only 5 percent of donors in the nations bone marrow registry

Maphoko Nthane, 50, had experienced mysterious and severe backaches for months. Doctors ran test after test, but could find nothing wrong with Nthane.

I had a severe back ache for months, she told Health-e News. Whenever I would have that pain, I couldnt sit down I had to walk or stand up.

Doctors eventually diagnosed Nthane with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, a severe form of cancer affecting a patients blood and bone marrow.

After I was diagnosed I thought I was going to die I didnt know that people with leukaemia could live, Nthane said. My husband was just as traumatised and as a result he didnt know how to support me.

Nthanes cancer failed to respond to standard chemotherapy and ultimately a stem cell transplant saved her life.

As part of stem cell transplants, stem cells are removed from the tissue of donors or, where possible, patients. These cells are usually from human tissues including bone marrow or fat.

Once removed, the stem cells are given high doses of chemotherapy higher than what could be administered to patients before being transplanted into patients in the hope that they will kill other cancerous cells.

Nthane was lucky to find a stem cell donor.

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Deadly shortage of black stem cell donors

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