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The joining policy changes
Joining the register
The donation process
What is the joining policy for the Anthony Nolan donor register?
Anthony Nolan is changing the age criteria for joining its donor register from 18-40 to 16-30. As well as fitting the age criteria, potential donors must be generally healthy, weigh over 8st (51kg) and have a Body Mass Index which is less than 35.
Why are you changing the joining policy?
Our joining policy of 16-30 will help us save more lives. It’s important to note that we are not reducing the number of people on the register but we are gradually lowering the average age of potential donors.
Why are you recruiting younger donors?
Due to scientific, medical and resource reasons.
Doctors will always choose a younger donor if they are available
Older donors are more likely to have developed age-related conditions which may mean they cannot donate
The health of our donors is a priority for Anthony Nolan so we want to provide the healthiest donors for patients
As a charity, we must spend our resources on recruiting the people who will be the best possible donors for patients with blood cancer
It costs £100 to add each donor to our register so we must recruit the people most likely to be chosen as donors, who will remain on our register for the longest time
Why are you making the change now and why didn’t you do it sooner?
As science and understanding around stem cell donation has developed, we have adapted our approaches. However, before we took such a bold step, we took the time to review our own donor data to ensure that we were confident our actions would save more lives.
We now understand a lot more about the shape and size of the ideal register, which will help us save more patients’ lives. As well as recruiting a younger age group, we are also targeting different communities and ethnicities. We now know that the shape and makeup of the register is as important as its size.
As an organisation, we now have the resources to ensure that we recruit enough potential donors to maintain the ideal size of the register despite focusing on a smaller age range.
Why don’t you keep the joining policy the same but just concentrate your marketing on recruiting young people?
We already target young people in our advertising and marketing and this has successfully boosted the level of young people on the register. However, as a charity we are reliant on voluntary income and for that we have to raise general awareness. When we raise general awareness, we increase fundraising income but we also attract older potential donors who are the people least likely to be selected by transplant centres. The new joining policy will allow us to raise general awareness of our cause on a larger scale, safe in the knowledge that we will only be recruiting the people who are most likely to be called to donate.
Do you still prefer to recruit young men?
We welcome both young men and women (aged 16-30) onto the register. While we know that young men are more likely to chosen to donate by doctors, doctors will pick younger donors in general where possible regardless of gender. Now we have changed our joining policy, we are only recruiting the people most likely to be chosen to donate.
Do older people make inferior donors?
Some older people make excellent donors but statistically you are more likely to have developed a health problem that would put you or the patient at risk, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. That is why we want to gradually lower the age of the register to fill it with people who are the most likely to be chosen to donate.
I am over 30 and from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic community (BAME) - surely the chance that I might match a patient is better than not finding them a match at all?
Putting people on the register who are statistically unlikely to be selected is not only expensive but also diverts our scientists away from processing the samples of younger volunteers who are more likely to be selected. We will save more lives by ensuring that we have a register of people who are most likely to be selected by transplant clinicians. Also we are proactively recruiting younger BAME donors to increase the diversity of the register.
If I am too old to donate, what else can I do?
There are lots of ways to get help Anthony Nolan save the lives of people with blood cancer from fundraising to volunteering. Find out more about the different ways you can get involved.
Why can’t I pay to be on the register?
We never turn away someone willing to help Anthony Nolan save lives but to work effectively we need to ask people to help us in different ways.
Even if an older person was willing to cover the cost of registering, processing that person’s sample would divert our scientists away from processing the samples of a younger person who is much more likely to be chosen. While it’s vital that we increase the size of the register, we will save more lives if we recruit people who are most likely to match and be selected.
With this in mind, the £100 a person may be willing to pay could be put to better use, for example paying to put someone else on the register who is more likely to come up as a match.
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Why do I have to be willing to donate in two different ways? (Peripheral blood stem cell collection (PBSC) and bone marrow harvest.)
Either form of donation can be successful for transplant purposes but in certain situations the transplant doctor may specify that one method is the better option for their patient.
I’m already an organ donor – does that mean I’m automatically on the Anthony Nolan register?
No it does not. Even if you are an organ or blood donor, you will still need to apply to join the Anthony Nolan register.
I’m already on the British Bone Marrow Registry – do I need to join the Anthony Nolan register too?
No. You only need to be on one donor register as they are both searched for matches for a patient.
Do women need to have had children to be eligible to donate?
No. Both women who have and have not had children are eligible to donate. If you are pregnant you may join the register, but will not be eligible to donate until your baby is one year old.
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Is donating painful?
It’s not as bad as many people think. 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. After bone marrow harvests, short term lower back discomfort is common.
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.
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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. Please note, as Anthony Nolan is linked to other registers around the world, your donation could be sent to a patient in need abroad.
If I donate, how long will it take my body to replace the donated stem cells?
The body begins to replace the stems cells immediately with levels returning to normal after an average of 21 days.
If I donate, will the person who gets my stem cells know who I am?
No, both you and the person you are helping will remain anonymous. This makes sure no one feels under pressure. For two years after the procedure, you will only be able to contact each other through messages sent via our team. After two years, and only if both of you agree, you can exchange contact details.
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