The myth that stem cell or bone marrow donation is painful is extremely common – and worryingly, it often stops people from registering to donate.
In 2016, a YouGov survey found that a shocking 34% of young men who wouldn’t sign up as a stem cell donor were just too scared that the experience would be painful.
We urgently need that to change – because it couldn’t be further from the truth.
‘I would 100% recommend it to other people. It’s comfortable, painless and so worthwhile.’
Zachary, stem cell donor
‘It was painless and that’s coming from someone with a fear of needles! I remember being amazed at how simple it was.’
Sean, stem cell donor
90% of people now donate directly from their bloodstream, in a procedure known as peripheral blood stem cell donation (PBSC).
You’ll receive a series of four hormone injections to make your stem cells multiply into the bloodstream. Then you’ll head to a clinic, where the stem cells will be extracted from one arm, and your blood returned to the other.
And that’s it. Some people report flu-like symptoms from the hormone injections, but these are usually mild and vanish within a few days.
‘I’ve felt worse after a few bruising encounters on the football pitch. Within a week of the donation, I was back on my feet and feeling much better; all in all, it’s a very small price to pay for what could be achieved.’
Liam, bone marrow donor
‘Some people have asked me if it was painful or difficult. It was actually quite simple and nothing compared to what the recipient is going through at the same time.’
Andrew, stem cell and bone marrow donor
Just 10% of people are asked to donate from the bone marrow itself.
This is the procedure that lies at the root of the ‘bone marrow donation is painful’ myth – but in reality, it takes place under general anaesthetic, so you won’t feel any pain while it’s happening.
Afterwards, you’ll probably feel a bit tired and bruised, and we recommend that you take a short break from work to recover. But that’s all – and it makes a lifesaving difference.
Tackling the myth that stem cell or bone marrow donation is painful is one of our biggest priorities.
That’s why we often ask our donors to share their stories, to bust the myths and show the world what donation is really like.
For a wide variety of donation experiences, just check out the Anthony Nolan Facebook page – we usually add one or two new stories every week!
If you're aged 16-30, sign up to our lifesaving register by clicking on the link below: