Doctors look for a donor who matches their patient’s tissue type, specifically their human leukocyte antigen (HLA) tissue type. HLAs are markers — found on most cells in your body. Your immune system uses these markers to recognize which cells belong in your body and which do not. The closer the match between the patient’s HLA markers and yours, the better for the patient.
Once you match: More testing will be done to see if you are the best possible match for the patient. We may ask for another cheek swab or blood sample or we may be able to use a stored sample. Though almost all patient information is confidential, we can tell you the patient’s age, gender and disease.
If the patient’s doctor selects you as the best donor for the patient, we will schedule an information session so you can learn more about the donation process, risks and side effects. At that time, we can also tell you the type of donation the patient’s doctor has requested — either bone marrow or cells collected from the blood, (PBSC) donation.
All donors are carefully prescreened to ensure they are healthy and the procedure is safe for them.
Be The Match provides support and information every step of the way.
There are two methods of donation: peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) and bone marrow. The patient’s doctor chooses the donation method that is best for the patient.
PDBC 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. To learn more, watch the PBSC donation video.
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. To learn more, watch the marrow donation video.
Though no medical procedure is without risk, there are rarely any long-term side effects donating either PBSC or bone marrow. Your cells replenish themselves in 4 to 6 weeks.
Because only 1 to 5% or less of your marrow is needed to save the patient’s life, your immune system stays strong.