September Is Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month

Released: 27-Aug-2012 2:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
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Experts who Treat Sickle Cell Patients at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey Available for Comment

Newswise — New Brunswick, N.J., August 27, 2012 – Sickle cell disease is a common inherited blood disorder, affecting an estimated 90,000 to 100,000 Americans according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). September is Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month, and The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ) is making experts available to comment on the condition as well as the latest in treatment options for patients, for whom care is available at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center. The Center -- a component of the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program at CINJ -- provides for a statewide referral program for the diagnosis and management of sickle cell disease and other related blood illnesses. CINJ is a Center of Excellence of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

According to the CDC, sickle cell disease affects people of many racial and ethnic groups. In the United States, one in 500 African American newborns has the disease. Other people disproportionately affected include Hispanics, people of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern descent, and Asians.

In sickle cell disease, the red blood cells become hard and sticky and come to resemble C-shaped sickles that are used as farm tools. The sickle cells die early, which causes a constant shortage of red blood cells. Also, when these blood cells travel through small blood vessels, they get stuck and clog the blood flow. This can result in repeated episodes of severe pain, organ damage, serious infections or anemia.

More than two million people carry the gene that allows them potentially to pass the disease on to their children. People who inherit one sickle cell gene and one normal gene have the sickle cell "trait." Sickle cell trait is diagnosed with a simple blood test. People at highest risk for having sickle cell trait are those whose ancestors come from Africa, South or Central America, the Caribbean, Mediterranean countries, India, and Saudi Arabia.

Experts emphasize that people with sickle cell disease can live full lives and enjoy most of the activities that other people do if they undergo regular checkups, prevent infections and develop healthy habits.

CINJ experts available for comment include:

Richard Drachtman, MD, is the interim division chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at CINJ, and a professor of pediatrics at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. His expertise/research interests include pediatric oncology, hematology, and sickle cell disease.

Beth Savage, RN, MSN, CPNP, is a pediatric nurse practitioner who works with Dr. Drachtman in examining and treating pediatric sickle cell patients and others with varied blood disorders at CINJ.


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