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MYTH: Donating bone marrow involves opening up or removing bones.

FACT: Most blood stem cell donors give peripheral blood stem cells—a process similar to donating plasma.

Some think that the only way to donate blood stem cells is through a surgical procedure. The reality is that more than 85% of donations are peripheral blood stem cells, which involves no surgery at all!

  • PBSC donation is a nonsurgical procedure and the most common way to donate. For 5 days leading up to donation, you will be given injections of a drug called filgrastim to increase the number of cells in your bloodstream that are used for transplant. Some of your blood is then removed through a needle in 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 donation is a surgical, usually outpatient procedure. You will receive anesthesia and feel no pain during the donation. Doctors use a needle to withdraw liquid marrow from the back of your pelvic bone via two small punctures.

    The patient's doctor chooses the donation method that is best for the patient.

MYTH: Donating is very painful.

FACT: Donating is less painful than you probably think.

Many mistakenly believe that donating blood stem cells is painful, when in reality it’s not.

  • While TV shows and movies have wildly exaggerated blood stem cell donation—especially bone marrow donation—as something scary, the reality is much less dramatic.
  • Discomfort during recovery varies from person to person. Side effects may include back pain, fatigue, headache or bruising for a few days or weeks.
  • The vast majority of donors say it was worth it to help save a life, and they would do it again.

Linda, marrow donor
Linda, marrow donor

MYTH: Donating is dangerous.

FACT: There are few risks to donating.

It is a common misconception that donating blood stem cells is dangerous. The truth is that there are actually very few risks in donating blood stem cells!

  • Protecting the safety of our donors and maintaining the public’s trust is essential to saving lives.
  • All donors are carefully prescreened to ensure they are healthy and the procedure is safe for them.
  • There are rarely any long-term side effects from donating either PBSC or marrow. The donor’s immune system stays strong, and their blood stem cells replenish themselves in 4 to 6 weeks.
  • While no medical procedure is completely risk free, every precaution is taken to ensure the safety and well-being of the donor.
  • Because only 1 to 5% or less of your marrow is needed to save the patient’s life, your immune system stays strong.

MYTH: Donating takes a long time.

FACT: It doesn’t take long to save someone’s life.

It’s actually a myth that the donation process takes a long time!

  • Online registration takes about 10 minutes. Completing and returning a cheek swab kit only takes a few minutes.
  • If you’re called to donate, the typical time commitment for the donation process is 20-30 hours spread out over a four-to- six-week period. This includes phone calls, appointments and the donation.

Akeem, peripheral blood stem cell donor

Akeem, peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donor

MYTH: Donating is expensive and you need medical insurance.

FACT: Donation is absolutely free to the donor.

Many people think that donating to a patient in need is expensive for them, but Be The Match covers every cost related to donation!

  • Be The Match covers travel, meals and hotel for donors and one companion.
  • All medical costs for the donation procedure are covered by the patient’s medical insurance or Be The Match.

MYTH: Sharing your personal information and DNA is risky.

FACT: We protect your privacy and confidentiality.

Sharing your personal information and DNA sample with us is NOT risky, because Be The Match has rules in place to protect your privacy.

  • Maintaining your trust is essential to saving lives. That’s why your personal identifying information will not be shared with any companies or government agencies.
  • We have rules in place to protect the rights and privacy of both donors and patients.
  • Information about your genetic type and the stored sample from your cheek swab are identified by a code and stored separate from your personal identifying information.

MYTH: Asking about a donor’s ethnic background is racist.

FACT: Ethnic background is an important factor for matching donors and patients.

  • Patients are most likely to match someone of the same ethnic background. That’s because genetic type is inherited.
  • Adding more registry members who increase the ethnic diversity of the registry increases the variety of tissue types available, helping more patients find the match they need.
  • Black or African American American
  • Indian or Alaska Native
  • Asian, including South Asian
  • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Multiracial

MYTH: Gay men cannot join or donate.

FACT: Members of the LGBTQIA+ community CAN join the registry and donate.

It is a common misconception that gay men and other members of the LGBTQIA+ community cannot join the registry or donate blood stem cells, when the reality is the exact opposite!

  • Be The Match does not ask about members’ sexual orientation.
  • For medical reasons, everyone is asked to provide their sex assigned at birth when they register. Should you be called as a match, pronouns and gender identity are respected throughout the process.
  • Prescription hormone therapy would NOT exclude someone from joining the registry. The specifics of everyone's health status would be discussed in detail with a medical professional at the time should you be called as a potential match for a patient.
  • Individuals who have had surgery within the last 12 months will be asked about the current status of their recovery and whether they are still seeing a physician for follow-up in regards to the surgery.

MYTH: Be The Match discriminates against people older than 40.
FACT: Age guidelines protect the safety of the donor and provide the best possible outcome for the patient. They are not meant to discriminate.

Some believe that the age guidelines we have in place are to discriminate against those 41 and older. However, these guidelines are meant to protect the safety of the patient AND the donor.

  • Donors between the ages of 18-35 provide the greatest chance for transplant success.
  • Doctors request donors in the 18-35 age group 75% of the time.
  • Learn more about why a donor's age matters.

There are many ways you can help even if donation is not an option:

MYTH: Only males can donate bone marrow or blood stem cells.

FACT: Anyone between the ages of 18-40 who meets the medical guidelines can donate.

  • Medical guidelines are in place to protect the health of donors and patients.
  • Certain guidelines, like pregnancy, wouldn’t prevent someone from joining the registry. However, while pregnant or attempting to become pregnant, you must be temporarily deferred from donating until fully recovered from the delivery. Marrow or blood-forming cells cannot be collected at any time during pregnancy.

MYTH: Matching blood stem cells is the same as matching blood type.

FACT: The genetic typing used to match donors to patients is much more complex than matching blood type.

  • A patient and donor do not need to have the same blood type. 
  • Matching is based on your human leukocyte antigen (HLA), proteins—or markers—found on most cells in your body.
  • The patient’s blood type will change to the donor’s blood type after transplant