What the UK must do to keep pace with blood cancers
Haematology Dr Suzy Lishman, President of the Royal College of Pathologists, explains the importance of training enough specialists and receiving sufficient blood donations for our aging population.
Although great progress is being made in the treatment of blood cancers, such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma, cure for all is not yet a reality.
"More than 6,000 blood donations are required every single day to keep stocks at safe levels: 200,000 new donors are needed every year."
Most forms of blood cancer are more common in older people. There are over 11 million over 65s in the UK, projected to rise by more than 40 per cent in the next 17 years to over 16 million. As the age of the population rises, so will the number of people developing blood cancers. There are currently approximately 1,200 consultant haematologists – highly trained doctors who specialise in the care of patients with blood cancers – but more are needed. Investment in recruiting and training new haematologists must begin now if we are to meet the needs of future patients.
Scientists are also key members of blood cancer teams, developing precise molecular tests to guide the choice of drugs and give early warning of the disease returning. They are instrumental in matching stem cell donors with the patient and in selecting compatible blood.
The extraordinary gift of donating blood
Treatment of blood cancers would not be possible without our precious blood donors. Patients can become very anaemic, due to a combination of the disease and the drugs used to treat it, and often need regular blood transfusions. They may also have a low platelet count. These tiny blood components are essential for blood clotting and transfusions of platelets, obtained from donated blood, may be needed every day or two.
"Giving blood is quick and easy, and you might help save someone’s life."
More donors, particularly from a black or Asian background, are always needed. More than 6,000 donations are required every single day to keep stocks at safe levels, and 200,000 new donors are needed every year. Giving blood is quick and easy, and you might help save someone’s life.
 Age UK