Only one-tenth of the 11 million people listed on the national Be The Match bone marrow registry are Hispanic, indicate registry numbers, a fact which complicates treatment for Hispanics suffering from conditions like leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, anemia and other blood disorders.
The lack of donors is concerning, particularly for Hispanic children who, research indicates, have a higher chance of developing and succumbing to leukemia compared to children of other ethnicities.
“Hispanic children are more likely than those from other racial and ethnic backgrounds to be diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and are more likely to die of their disease,” wrote researchers from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in a statement. “Each year ALL is found in about 3,000 U.S. children, making it the most common childhood cancer. The incidence varies by self-declared race and ethnicity with rates for Hispanic individuals 50 percent higher than for non-Hispanic white individuals.”
While leukemia isn’t the only reason an individual may require a bone marrow transplant, it is one of the more common issues seen among Hispanic patients.
Shortage of Hispanic bone marrow donors
Ileana Quinones of Icla Da Silva, a nationwide nonprofit that recruits bone marrow donors in minority communities, told The Tampa Tribune that the low number of Hispanic donors comes down to education.
“We need to educate them,” she said, “and the only way we can educate them is on a one-to-one basis.”
Many immigrants do not tend to hear much about the need for Hispanic bone marrow donors, not only because it is an uncommon topic during medical checkups, but because for some of them, language barriers can prevent the initial conversation. For these reasons, experts are emphasizing the need for churches, schools and public offices to help spread the word and facilitate more Hispanic bone marrow donor signups.
Currently, The Institute for Justice indicates Hispanic patients in need of a bone marrow transplant are only able to find one 45 percent of the time, compared to non-Hispanic whites who find donors in 75 percent of cases.
A bone marrow harvest is relatively simple, and most donors experience only mild discomfort. (Shutterstock)
Like any other organ transplant, a donor must be a match to the patient, and approximately 1,000 people die annually because they are unable to find suitable donors. Once in a while, a Hispanic patient can be matched with a non-Hispanic donor, but this is rare.
Hispanics aren’t the only ones who find bone marrow donors in short supply either; the issues is universal for minorities in the United States
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