Donating stem cells: Frequently asked questions
What are the methods of donating?
There are 2 different methods of donating. Approximately 90% of people donate via peripheral blood stem cell collection (PBSC), and the rest do so via a bone marrow harvest. Details on these methods can be found here.
Why do I have to be willing to donate in two different ways?
Is donating painful?
This is a common myth about donation that we hear a lot! PBSC donors usually have flu-like symptoms while they are getting the injections to stimulate their production of stem cells. These will usually go away within 24 hours of the last injection. People who have donated via the bone marrow method compared the after-effects to a hard game of football. Many donors find the experience fulfilling and for some, it’s life-changing.
Great, so I’m all signed up, when do I donate?
Unlike blood donation, something you would do regularly, with stem cell donation there is only a 1/1000 chance that you are found to be an exact tissue match for someone in need and go on to offer them a donation.
What if I’m found to be a match, but I’m in the middle of my exams?
If you are found to be a suitable donor, then you will be asked when is a good time for you to donate within the next few weeks, they do not expect you to drop everything and rush off to London!
How long will it take to recover after donating stem cells?
Depending on how you donate, you could expect to be back to normal in between 1-10 days.
After I have donated, what will happen with my stem cells?
Your stem cells will be infused into the recipient’s blood stream within days of donating. If the recipient’s body accepts them, the stem cells will start producing healthy blood cells. This will allow the body to carry oxygen round the body and fight infection. As Anthony Nolan is linked to other registers around the world, your donation could be sent to a patient in need abroad.
Do I have to be deceased to donate stem cells?
No. Unlike organ donation, we can only take stem cell donations while the donor is still alive.
Are there any long term health risks associated with receiving granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF)?
G-CSF is the naturally occurring growth hormone used to increase the number of circulating stem cells in peripheral blood stem cell donations. Based on available data from healthy people who have received G-CSF, we have not identified any long term risks, but a donation is not completely risk free and we continually monitor any developments in this area. As part of our post-donation assessment, we collect data both nationally and internationally to establish the long term effects of receiving G-CSF. You can also find more information at The World Marrow Donor Association (WMDA) website. Anthony Nolan is working as part of a WMDA subgroup which are currently updating information in this area as there is now more data which supports the safety of G-CSF.