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Bone marrow donations, transplants save lives

Jun 13, 2012 8:38am
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(NECN/AP) - The shocking announcement of Robin Roberts' MDS diagnosis has shed new light on the importance of bone marrow and blood donations.

Five years after being treated for breast cancer, the "Good Morning America" co-host has a new health fight on her hands.
 
Roberts announced on-air Monday that she is beginning chemotherapy treatment for Myelodysplastic Syndrome, or MDS, a blood and bone marrow disease once known as preleukemia. She is expected to get a bone marrow transplant sometime this fall.
 
Her older sister, Sally Ann Roberts, an anchor for WWL-TV in New Orleans, is considered a perfect match to donate marrow and said she will do so.
 
"My doctors tell me I'm going to beat this, and I know it's true," Roberts, 51, said on the show Monday.
 
Sally Ann Roberts said she's thankful she has marrow her sister can use and that she can assist in her treatment.
 
"I'm just so very grateful that I did match her because there are many, many people right now who are dying for a match and have no one in their family who are eligible," Sally Ann Roberts said.
 
She said her family is now encouraging everyone to sign up to be donors.
 
"The wonderful thing about being a donor is that it takes so very little," Sally Ann Roberts said. "I will go through a physical and when ... the doctors deem it's time, I will be prepared with some injections to separate the marrow from the blood, then simply go through something like dialysis. I may miss a week of work, if that much."
 
Robin Roberts also hopes that attention paid to her diagnosis will encourage people to donate bone marrow that might help someone else with the disease.
 
She developed MDS as a result of her breast cancer treatment - a manner of transmission so unusual it affects only a few hundred people per year, said Dr. Richard Besser, ABC's medical correspondent.
 
The prognosis for many MDS patients is dire, but that's largely due to the disease primarily affecting people over age 60, Besser said. Between Roberts being young and healthy, and having already located a good donor in her sister, Besser said things look promising for her.
 
Roberts has contributed to "Good Morning America" since 1995, and was named co-anchor in 2005. The former Southeastern Louisiana basketball star worked at ESPN for 15 years.
 
She had blood tests that disclosed the MDS after feeling fatigued, or more fatigued than even someone who had to get up for a 7 a.m. show every weekday might expect, Besser said.
 
After Roberts made her big announcement on Monday, a non-profit group has received tremendous support.

Be The Match works to match life-saving donors to patients in need of marrow transplants. The group has received more than 3,600 new donors since Roberts' announcement on Monday.

On average, the group says it receives 200-300 new registrations.

Each year, more than 10,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases, such as leukemia or lymphoma. Marrow or umbilical cord blood transplants can be the patients' best chance for a cure.

Dr. Robert Soiffer, from Dana-Farber, is a fully accredited member of the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) and a part of the "Be the Match" donor program

He joined "The Morning Show" to share more information on donating bone marrow and stem cells.

To find out if you're a match and could help save a life- click here.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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