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FAQ's About Joining the Registry*


Q:  What is a bone marrow transplant?

A:  Bone marrow transplant is a life-saving treatment for people with blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, sickle cell and other life-threatening diseases.  First, patients undergo chemotherapy and sometimes radiation to destroy their diseased marrow.  Then a donor's healthy blood-forming cells are given directly into the patient's bloodstream, where they can begin to function and multiply.

For a patient's body to accept these healthy cells, the patient needs a donor who is a close match.  Seventy percent of patients do not have a donor in their family and depend on the Be The Match Registry to find an unrelated bone marrow donor or umbilical cord blood.

Q:  Why is there a need for people to join the Be The Match Registry?

A:  Patients need donors who are a genetic match.  Even with a registry of millions, many patients cannot find a match.  Donors with diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds are especially needed.

Q:  How do I become a bone marrow donor?

A:  The first step to become a bone marrow donor is to join the Be The Match Registry.  Doctors around the world search our registry to find a match for their patients.  If a doctor selects you as a match for a patient, you may be asked to donate bone marrow or cells from circulating blood (called PBSC donation).

Q:  How do I use the registration kit to collect a cheek cell sample?

A:  When you join the registry, you will use our registration kit to give a swab of cheek cells.  We will tissue type the sample you provide and use the results to match you to patients.

If you join in person at a donor registry drive, the Be The Match representatives can explain how to use the swab kit.  If you join online, you will receive your kit in the mail.  Instructions are included in your kit.

Q:  What is my commitment if I join?

A:  When you join the Be The Match Registry, you make a commitment to:

  • Be listed on the registry until your 61st birthday, unless you ask to be removed
  • Consider donating to any searching patient who matches you
  • Keep us updated if your address changes, you have significant health changes or you change your mind about being a donor
  • Respond quickly if you are contacted as a potential match for a patient

Q:  How likely is it that I will donate to someone?

A:  Doctors choose donors based on what is best for the patient.  On average, one in every 540 members of Be The Match Registry in the United States will go on to donate bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells to a patient.

Every person who joins the registry gives patients hope, and new patient searches begin every day.  You may never be identified as a match for someone, or you might be one of a number of potential matches.  But you may also be the only one on the registry who can save a particular patient's life.

Q:  If I am between the ages of 18 and 44, why am I more likely to be called to donate?

A:  If you are between the ages of 18 and 44, patients especially need you.  Doctors choose donors based on what is best for their patient.  When more than one potential donor is a good HLA match for a patient, doctors will also consider other facts, including the donor's age.  Research shows that cells from younger donors lead to more successful transplants.  Doctors choose registry members ages 18-44 more than 90% of the time.

Q:  Can I still join if I'm over age 44?

A:  Yes.  If you are between the ages of 18 and 60, meet health guidelines and are willing to donate to any patient in need, you can join the registry.  Everyone on the registry is critical to saving lives.  For all registry members, the most important thing you can do is stay committed, so if you're selected as a match for a patient you're ready to move forward.

Q:  If I am between the ages of 45 and 60, why is there a cost to join?

A:  Doctors choose donors based on what is best for their patient.  When more than one potential donor is a good HLA match for a patient, doctors will also consider other factors, including the donor's age.  Research shows that younger donors provide the greatest chance for transplant success.  Eighteen- to 44-year-olds are called to donate 90% of the time.  Those between the ages of 45 and 60 who want to join the registry are welcome to do so online with a $100 tax-deductible payment.

Q:  Why does a person have to be 18 to join?  Can't my parent sign the consent for me?

A:  An individual must be 18 to donate because donation is a medical (for PBSC donation) or surgical (for marrow donation) procedure and the person undergoing the procedure must legally be able to give informed consent.  A guardian or parent cannot sign a release or give consent for someone under age 18, because unrelated marrow donation is a voluntary procedure and is not directly beneficial or life-saving to the volunteer donor.

Q:  If I'm over 60, why can't I join?

A:  Bone marrow donation is a surgical procedure in which liquid marrow is withdrawn from the back of the donor's pelvic bones using special, hollow needles.  General or regional anesthesia is always used for this procedure, so donors feel no needle injections and no pain during marrow donation.  Most donors feel some pain in their lower back for a few days afterwards.


Click here to link to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)

Use match4kim as the promo code on the NMDP website


 * Source: National Marrow Donor Program (marrow.org)




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