Marrow Program FAQs


Why should I join?
It saves lives! 70 percent of patients with blood cancer who need a match cannot find one. When you join the registry you’re giving them hope for survival.

Can I sign up now even if I’m not sure?
By the time a patient needs a match it is often under critical circumstances. If you sign up it is imperative that you are prepared to potentially make a donation down the road. Time is of the essence for marrow and stem cell transplants.

Can I sign a waiver if I do not meet all the requirements?
Our age and health guidelines are in place to protect our donors and patients. If you have a condition that excludes you from joining, we encourage you to give back by recruiting your friends and family who might be able to join.

Do I get paid?
There is no financial benefit or payment given for the donation itself. We do pay for the medical costs, travel and many incidentals, such as meals and mileage, surrounding the donation process.

What is the difference between bone marrow and peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation?
A PBSC donation is similar to plasma or platelet donations and takes between 4 and 6 hours to complete. In the days leading up to the donation, donors receive injections of a marrow stimulating drug called filgrastim (Neupogen) which can cause symptoms similar to a mild case of the flu. Marrow donations are done in the hospital under general anesthesia with a needle inserted into the soft part of the hip bone. However, donors do not feel anything during the actual collection. There is some recovery from both processes. Donors can feel easily fatigued, tenderness at the collection site and potential bruising, all of which normally resolve within 2 to 3 weeks after the donation. Most donors report feeling a little sore, but are back to their normal activities within a day or two after their donation.

Can I choose which type of donation I’d like to give?
This is a voluntary process and we support a donor in their decision for one donation type over the other. However, the transplant centers request the donation type they believe gives their patient the best chance at survival. In some cases a transplant center will remove the donation request if the donor will not give the requested donation type. Bone marrow and PBSC donations are different, but each is extremely safe.

What are the chances I will be called?
About 1 in 40 people will be asked to give a blood sample to test toward a specific patient in need. About 1 in 500 people will actually complete a donation.

When can I donate?
People who join may never get matched to a specific patient or they may match right away. Possible donors are usually asked for blood samples to test toward a specific patient in need, which will determine if you are one of the best matches for this patient. If you are selected to make a marrow or blood stem cell donation for a patient, there is normally 3 to 8 weeks between when we contact donors to request a donation and the actual donation date. Ensuring a donor is appropriate, suitable and eligible takes time and requires health screenings and physical exams. Collection procedures nearly always occur on a weekday because of the transplant center’s schedule.

Why are there age requirements?
Doctors see better patient outcomes with donations from donors between the ages of 18 and 44. While genetic markers are most important, age has also been shown to be extremely important in the effectiveness of patient outcome. Potential donors will remain on the national registry until the age of 61.

Why do you ask for so much information?
Because you are on the registry for many years, it is imperative that we be able to locate you if you are matched to a patient. The more information we have the easier this is if you have moved or your information on file becomes outdated.

There are lots of people of the registry, am I really needed?
Even with 20 million people on the registry, a patient’s likelihood of finding a donor match ranges from 66 to 97 percent, depending on race and ethnicity. Because the markers used in matching are inherited, patients are most likely to match someone from their own ancestry. In order to continue fighting blood cancer and make matches possible for 100 percent of patients, we need more people on the registry.

Why is my ethnicity important?
People of similar ethnic backgrounds are more likely to provide marrow/stem cell matches for one another because tissue type is inherited. We need people from all ethnic backgrounds to join who can to support patient needs here in the U.S. and internationally.

Can I volunteer?
Absolutely! Please contact us to see what opportunities are available. We usually need help with our live drives, which are about 4 hours long. We can also use help with fundraising, outreach and advocacy. Call us at 303.363.2345 to find out how you can help.