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Dispelling Myths about Stem Cell/Bone Marrow Donation


MYTH 1: Bone Marrow Donation Is Painful.

These days, there are actually two ways you can donate stem cells: via peripheral blood stem cell donation or via bone marrow donation.

  • In peripheral blood stem cell donation, stem cells are collected from the bloodstream using a nonsurgical, outpatient procedure called apheresis. First, for four days prior to donation, the donor is given injections that increases the number of stem cells in his/her blood. The donation itself involves having blood removed through a needle in one arm and returned to the body through a needle inserted in the other arm. Peripheral blood stem cell donation takes about 4 to 6 hours on 1 to 2 consecutive days, and the donor typically goes home the same day he donates.

  • For bone marrow donation, marrow cells are collected from the back of the pelvic bone using a syringe. The donor receives general anesthesia, so no pain is experienced during the extraction, which takes about 1 to 2 hours. The donor may experience back or hip pain for a few days or even a few weeks afterward. For bone marrow donation, there can be an overnight stay in the hospital.

MYTH 2: Bone Marrow Donation May Have Long-Term Consequences.

Over the long term, donating stem cells by either method is relatively harmless to the donor. Bone marrow levels typically return to normal within a few weeks of the donation, and donors can return to school, work and most other activities within 1 to 7 days.

MYTH 3: Bone Marrow Is Taken From the Spine.

Bone marrow donations have nothing to do with the spine.

Peripheral blood stem cell donation — the method used in about 90% of cases — involves collecting blood stem cells from the bloodstream.

For bone marrow donation, which is the less common method, marrow is extracted from the back of the donor’s pelvic bone — not the spine — using a special syringe.

MYTH 4: Bone Marrow Donation Is Expensive.

A bone marrow transplant procedure is expensive, but there is no cost to the donor for donating bone marrow or stem cells.

Registries such as Anthony Nolan and DKMS will take care of your travel costs, meals and lodging expenses-if there are any. The patient’s health insurance covers the costs of pre-donation exams and the donation procedure itself.

Other nonprofit bone marrow registries help donors in similar ways. They typically will also cover the costs for a companion to travel to the donation with you.

Your own health insurance will never be used.

Additionally, if your employer does not provide paid time off for the donation, some registries have a financial assistance program for compensation of lost wages.

MYTH 5: Bone Marrow Donation Is Time-Consuming.

In most cases, donors are asked to donate within one to three months after receiving a request. The donors schedule is always worked around.

For peripheral stem cell donations, the donor must have booster injections for the four days before the procedure, and then the donation takes roughly 4 to 6 hours over the course of one day. Donors typically do not stay overnight in the hospital, and most are able to return to work, school and their normal schedule within a few days.

The bone marrow extraction process takes 1 to 2 hours, and donors may stay overnight at the hospital. Even so, most are able to return to their normal schedule within days.

MYTH 6: Family Members Can Donate All Needed Bone Marrow.

When a stem cell transplant is being considered, doctors look to patients’ families first for a match, starting with siblings, who have a 1 in 4 chance of being a close match. But only 30 percent of patients are fortunate enough to find a match within their own family. The vast majority of patients in need of a transplant must rely on donors outside their families.

The need for donors is critical, especially for those from racially and ethnically diverse communities, who face much lower odds of being able to find a match.

Website from where this information has been derived

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