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Be the Match: Annual bone marrow drive helps heal cancer patients

On February 14, the Health Information Technology (HIT) club will host the annual Be The Match bone marrow drive.

Bone marrow is found inside bones, and produces the blood that circulates through the human body. Patients with any form of blood cancer (leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma) may need a bone marrow transplant to help fight off the cancer.

When a patient is diagnosed with a blood disease and requires a bone marrow transplant, immediate family may be tested, but might not be a complete match for the patient. A complete match greatly increases the odds that the recipient’s immune system will accept the donor’s bone marrow.

If there is no match within immediate family, doctors can refer to the bone marrow donor list for their patient.

According to the BeTheMatch.org, the success of the match is highly dependant on age and ancestry. Without a full match, the patient runs the risk of rejecting the donated bone marrow and becoming more sick.  Younger donors have a higher rate of success when transplanting bone marrow, though donors may remain on the donor list until they are 61 years old.

According to the BeTheMatch.org, the types of cells that make up your tissues are inherited from your parents and other ancestors, which makes finding a match more difficult for people with more diverse ethnic backgrounds.

Because MCC has an ethnically diverse student body, more ethnically diverse bone marrow recipients have a better chance of getting the transplant they need. Last year, MCC added 90 donors to the list, 48 of whom belonged to a minority group. To participate in the bone marrow drive, students must be between 18 and 44 years old.

Ordinarily, just getting tested as a donor costs around 100 dollars. Drives from past years have already paid the fee for getting tested, so students can participate in the drive at no cost.

Participants do not donate their bone marrow that day; instead, the process requires a cheek swab to determine tissue type, which then goes into a database that hospitals can use to find donors for their patients who may need a bone marrow transplant.

If a donor was matched with a patient, the hospital or other appropriate medical professionals will contact the potential donor and talk through next steps.

For those ineligible to donate bone marrow, carnations are available for purchase. Proceeds will be donated to the Be The Match national donor program.

The Be The Match bone marrow drive will be held on Feb. 14, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the R. Thomas Flynn Campus Center Atrium. For more information on bone marrow transplants and donation eligibility, go to bethematch.org or

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