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Commonly Asked Questions About Bone Marrow

Q: Why should I get screened for bone marrow donation?

A: Because you might be able to save someone’s life. By getting screened your genetic bone marrow profile is entered into a database, so that any patient searching for a lifesaving transplant might be able to see if they are your “match.”

Q: What does “matching” mean?

A: For many people with blood cancers such as leukemia, the only hope of a cure is the donation of healthy, cell-making cells. This can only work if the donor cells are “genetically similar” to the patient’s cells; for if they are not, the cancer patient’s immune system rejects the donor cells, with potentially catastrophic consequences.

Q: What is the chance of a cancer patient finding his or her “matching” donor?

A: Due to the lack of donors who have been screened, the chance is very low, unfortunately. Patients with higher numbers of screened donors with their ethnic profile are more likely to find a match, with family members being the most likely match.

Q: What is involved in getting screened for bone marrow donation?

A: Most of the time, all that is needed is a “buccal swab” (a cotton-tipped applicator is rubbed against your inner cheek). This procedure is painless.

Q: What if I match a patient in need?

A: If you match, you will receive notification from the bone marrow registry. If you agree to consider donation, you will be called back for some blood tests to confirm that you are a “good” match. If those tests reveal you match, you will proceed to the donation phase!

Q: What is involved in donating bone marrow?

A: The donation procedure takes place in the hospital. Most of the time, stem cells are collected for donation with intravenous (IV) lines drawn from each arm. Occasionally, however, a different procedure is used, where a “needle aspiration” is performed (collection from your hip bone under anesthesia).

Q: Where can I find more information?

A: You can find more information about bone marrow donation on our links page.