Our lifesaving work has come a long way in the past 40 years. Our knowledge of stem cells has expanded, and the bone marrow transplant process has improved. A lot has changed.
That’s something to be proud of. But sadly, it also means we often end up having to explain ourselves – because people have heard some ‘facts’ about our work which are decades out of date. Or, sometimes, just plain wrong.
It’s a massive obstacle to everything we do, and sometimes it even stops people from signing up to the Anthony Nolan register.
That’s why we’ve decided to devote March to a month of mythbusting – because we need to make sure people are hearing the facts about bone marrow transplants and how they can save the lives of people with blood cancer or blood disorders.
TRUTH: For 90% of people, donating is like giving blood.
90% of people now donate their stem cells, not their bone marrow . It’s a simple, painless process – very similar to giving blood. Some people who donate report mild flu-like symptoms, but these usually vanish within a day or two.
One of our stem cell donors, Sean, said,
‘It was painless and that’s coming from someone with a fear of needles! I remember being amazed at how simple it was.’
If you’re one of the 10% who give your bone marrow, you’ll be under general anaesthetic so there won’t be any pain during the procedure. Afterwards, you’ll probably feel a bit tired and bruised, and you might have to take a few days off work.
TRUTH: You’ll only donate if you’re a match
You’ll only be ever asked to donate if you’re a match for someone with blood cancer or a blood disorder who’s in urgent need of a lifesaving transplant.
The more people who join the register, the more matches we’ll have, and the more lives we’ll be able to save.
TRUTH: We’d be very grateful and proud to accept your donation.
Everyone who joins our register goes through the same health and suitability checks – your sexuality doesn’t matter one bit.
TRUTH: We need everybody to be part of our work. There are many ways to save a life, and stem cell donation is just one of them.
Whether you raise vital funds for Anthony Nolan, campaign to improve care for blood cancer patients, or even tell just one other person about the register, you deserve to be called a lifesaver.
TRUTH: You’ll stay on the register until you’re 60.
People aged 16-30 (and in particular, young men) are overwhelmingly more likely to be chosen by hospitals to donate their stem cells. But we keep you on the register until your 60th birthday.
Since it costs us £40 to carry out the scientific work required to add every potential donor, we need to make sure that the people on our register are as likely as possible to go forward for transplant. If we add lots of people who are very unlikely to be chosen, we won’t be helping as many people as we could
So, it’s true you’ll be less likely to be chosen to donate if you’re older, but there’s still a chance you could save a life.
TRUTH: There aren’t nearly enough people from ethnic minorities on the register – and people are dying because of it.
If someone needs a stem cell transplant, their donor needs to be a genetic match for them. Usually that means they’ll need to come from the same ethnic background.
So if you come from an ethnic minority in the UK, or you’re mixed-race, there will be a much smaller pool of potential matches to choose from. That makes it far less likely that we’ll be able to find you a lifesaving match.
Overall, patients from a black, Asian, or minority ethnic background have under a 20% chance of finding the best possible match.
We’re working hard to improve that, but we desperately need more young people from ethnic minority backgrounds to join our register and change the odds of survival.