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Why Is It Important to Give Bone Marrow?

Autumn Rivers
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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Many conditions can be treated with bone marrow from a donor, which is why this kind of donation often is encouraged. A major example of a disease that can be treated with donated bone marrow is cancer, with leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma being among the most common types. The common cancer treatment of chemotherapy often needs to be followed by a bone marrow transplant, regardless of the type of cancer, because chemotherapy kills many cells in the body. Other diseases also benefit from donor marrow, with sickle cell anemia, thalassemia and neutropenia among the most common. Donors should know that giving bone marrow is not always painful and is a free or inexpensive way to potentially save a life.

One of the most common reasons for a patient to need a bone marrow transplant is the presence of cancer of some sort. For example, leukemia treatment usually relies on donors who give bone marrow, because this disease often causes the body to create mostly defective blood cells that start to invade various tissues. When lymphoma spreads to the bone marrow, it usually is necessary to replace the infected morrow with healthy cells from a donor. Myeloma treatment also tends to require donor marrow, because this condition affects plasma cells that are present in the patient's bone marrow. Even when the bone marrow remains unaffected by cancer, some patients still need a transplant after chemotherapy, because the treatment tends to kill both the unhealthy and healthy cells.

Treating cancer is not the only reason to give bone marrow, because some other diseases also attack this part of the body. Donor bone marrow is known for being able to cure sickle cell anemia, but few patients with the disease find donors who match, so this is not a widespread treatment option despite its effectiveness. Thalassemia, a blood disorder that results in too few red blood cells and too little hemoglobin in the body, is another disease that may be treated by bone marrow, particularly in young patients. Another condition that affects many younger patients is neutropenia, in which the white blood cells that fight infection are present in low numbers, because the body's bone marrow has trouble producing enough. In such cases, those who give bone marrow may be helping to treat infants affected by this disease and patients of all ages who are affected by various conditions.

Giving bone marrow has a reputation for being uncomfortable, especially because side effects may include headaches and sore bones. There are, however, more modern options that make it nearly pain-free to give bone marrow; some methods are quite similar to giving blood. When surgery is required to give bone marrow, anesthesia usually is administered so the procedure is not painful. Those who find out they are a match usually can undergo the procedure at zero or minimal cost, because the recipient's insurance typically pays for the medical expenses that are involved. Donors also get the benefit of knowing they may have saved a life, which often is what leads to them donate bone marrow in the first place.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Autumn Rivers
By Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for WiseGeek, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.

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Autumn Rivers

Autumn Rivers

Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for WiseGeek, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.
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