Get EducatedLearn more about bone marrow donations
Who might need a bone marrow transplant?
People with a variety of conditions like leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia and many other potentially life-threatening diseases, may require bone marrow or cord blood transplant to save their life.
What is a bone marrow transplant?
A stem cell transplant — also called a blood or marrow transplant — is the injection or infusion of healthy stem cells into the body to replace damaged or diseased stem cells. A stem cell transplant may be necessary if the bone marrow functions abnormally or insufficiently and doesn’t produce enough healthy stem and blood cells.
Where do healthy cells come from?
Donors – people just like you – save lives when they provide their bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) for transplantation in patients with blood cancers like Leukemia and related bone marrow diseases.
Who can be a donor?
Joining the registry is a commitment. Finding a match is very difficult and a patient is trusting in you to donate your cells if you receive a call.
Anyone can join the registry but age, ancestry and health do play a role…
- Research supports that donors between the ages of 18 & 44 provide the greatest chance for transplant success.
- Patients are most likely to match with someone who shares their ancestry. Thus it is important to get diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds
- All donors are carefully prescreened to ensure they are healthy and the procedure is safe for them.
Donors never pay to donate marrow.
How do I become a donor?
First you must join the registry. You can either join online at Be the Match or you can visit us or one of our partners at an event.
Chances of being a donor?
We can’t predict what your individual chance of donating to a patient might be. But it’s important to remember that you could be the only person who could save someone’s life. Every registry member is important to patients in need of a marrow transplant.
- 1 in 40 registry members will be called for additional testing. Additional testing can be used to narrow the list of potential donors and determine the best possible match for a patient.
- 1 in 300 will be selected as the best possible donor for a patient. These potential donors will have an information session with their donor center representative to learn more about the donation process. Due to changes in the patient’s condition, not all donors who are selected as the best match will donate.
- 1 in 500 members will actually donate.
What is the process to donate?
If you are matched with a patient there are a few more steps before you are asked to donate.
- The first step is participating in an information session, getting a physical exam and giving a blood sample. A physician still needs to determine if you are the best match and are healthy enough to participate.
- If you proceed to the donation step there are two methods with the first being the most common.
- PBSC donationis a non-surgical procedure. For 5 days leading up to a donation, you will be given injections of filgrastim. Filgrastim is a medication that increases the number of blood-forming cells in your bloodstream. On the day of donation, blood is removed through a needle on one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood-forming cells. The remaining blood is returned to you through the other arm.
- Bone marrow donationis a surgical procedure that takes place in a hospital operating room. Doctors use needles to withdraw liquid marrow from the back of your pelvic bone. Donors receive anesthesia and feel no pain during the donation.
To learn more about how easy it is to be a donor – read one of our donor stories.
Number of patients that don't have a match in their family
Each year, more than 20,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses where a bone marrow transplant or umbilical cord blood transplant from a related or unrelated matched donor is their best treatment option.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
”To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson