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Be The Match marrow registry representative discusses why people don’t register

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Published: Nov. 13, 2021 at 10:38 PM EST
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - Be The Match bone marrow registry has approximately ten thousand patients each year, but not all of those patients will find a match.

“Last year we had one of our best years ever in terms of our number of patients we were able to match a donor to, and that was over 6,600 patients which is a record year for us, but you can see there’s a gap,” said Linda Alexander, Patient Lead Liaison for Be The Match.

This gap can be credited to the lack of racial diversity among those who register.

“While there might be 39 million people in the international registry that we manage, based on ethnic backgrounds, there’s a disparity among particular ethnic groups,” said Alexander.

Among the patients who need a donor, white patients have a 79% chance of finding a donor while those from Asian or Hispanic decent have less than a 50% chance, but African Americans have the smallest likelihood of finding their match with 29%.

Only 30% of patients match with a family member.

“If they don’t match a family member, they’re gonna match someone with a similar ethnic background,” adds Alexander.

Alexander said a lack of knowledge and education on registry maintains these racial disparities

Another reason people are hesitant to register is misinformation.

Bone marrow registry is depicted as a serious surgery on many movies and television shows, which can deter people from registering. Although it can be an invasive procedure, there are other ways to retrieve blood-forming cells from the body.

Peripheral blood stem cell transplants can be performed. This is a less invasive out-patient procedure that uses an IV to extract blood from the donor’s body. Once the blood-forming cells have been removed from the blood, the blood is returned to the donor. This procedure takes four to six hours.

Even though there are millions of people in the donation registry, Linda Alexander says only 1 out of every 220 people who are registered will be a perfect match for a patient.

“It’s an amazing experience and I think those who have gone on to donate would tell anyone... that they would do it again in a heartbeat and that it was one of the most meaningful things they’ve ever done in their lives,” said Alexander.

If you are between the ages of 18 and 40 and are interested in joining the bone marrow registry, you can text “blade” to 61474.

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