About Blood Cancer

Every 4 minutes in the U.S., someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer. For many patients, a bone marrow transplant is the best chance for survival. While 30% of patients can find a matching donor in their families, 70%—approximately 14,000 each year—must rely on a benevolent stranger to step up and donate. Learn more about blood cancer and how bone marrow donation can delete it. Then register for your chance to give a patient a second chance at life.

For more information, visit our frequently asked questions

FAQs

What is Blood Cancer?

Blood cancer is an umbrella term for malignancies of the blood, bone marrow or lymph nodes that affect normal blood cell production or function. As these diseased blood cells proliferate, they cause life-threatening damage to the immune and circulatory systems.

Leukemia

Leukemia is a blood cancer that develops when normal blood cells change and grow uncontrollably. There are four main types named according to the cells affected (myeloblasts, lymphocytes) and whether the disease starts with mature or immature cells (chronic, acute).

Lymphoma

Lymphoma is the name for a group of blood cancers that develop in the lymphatic system. The two main types are Hodgkin lymphoma (generally starts in blood and bone marrow) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (generally starts in lymph node and lymphatic tissue.)

Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma starts in the bone marrow when plasma cells begin to grow uncontrollably. As the cells grow, they compromise the immune system and impair the production and function of white and red blood cells causing bone disease, organ damage and anemia among other conditions.

Other Blood or Marrow Disorders

Anemias

Anemia is a blood disorder that occurs when the body can't produce enough healthy red blood cells. Bone marrow transplants can be lifesaving treatments for those fighting Sickle Cell Disease, Diamond Black Fan Anemia, Aplastic Anemia, Beta-Thalassemia, Fanconi Anemia and others.

Others

Bone marrow transplants are often the best treatment for a range of immune deficiency disorders such as Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome and inherited metabolic disorders including Hurler's Syndrome and leukodystrophies.

Take the First Step to Giving Someone a Second Chance at Life

We have registered more than 500,000 donors in the U.S. and over 4.5 million worldwide, but that’s still not enough to help every patient in need of a transplant. In fact, 6 out of 10 patients are unable to find a compatible donor. The odds are even lower for those with diverse ancestry. You can help change that by registering as a donor or supporting our registration efforts with a gift.

Every year, approximately 14,000 patients need to find a compatible donor outside their family. Their doctors search the national registry for potential donors who share a similar Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) tissue type.

A close HLA match increases the chance that the patient’s body will accept donated cells as its own and not fight them. Currently, only about 4 in 10 patients can find a donor with a very close HLA type. The closest HLA matches generally occur between patients and donors who share the same ancestry.

It costs $65 to lab test each potential donor’s swabs and determine their HLA tissue type. Because we never want money to come between a donor and the patient who needs them, we rely on contributions to sponsor the nearly 150,000 new donors we register each year.

Two Ways to Donate

There are two ways to donate. The patient’s doctor chooses the method that promises the best outcome for the patient. We ask that all registrants be comfortable moving forward with both methods.

Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Donation

This is the donation method used in 75% of cases. Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) donation is a non-surgical, outpatient procedure that collects blood stem cells via the bloodstream. It takes about 4-8 hours on 1-2 consecutive days.

Bone Marrow Donation

This is the donation method used in about 25% of cases, generally when the patient is a child. It is a 1-2 hour surgical procedure performed under anesthesia, so no pain is experienced during the donation. Marrow cells are collected from the back of your pelvic bone using a syringe.

 

During the procedure, your blood is drawn through one arm and passed through a machine that filters out the blood stem cells. The remaining blood is returned to you through your other arm. To increase your blood stem cells prior to donation, you will receive daily injections of a synthetic protein called filgrastim on the 4 days leading up to and on the morning of the procedure. The actual donation can take from 4-8 hours over the course of 1-2 days.

Possible Side Effects & Recovery

While taking filgrastim, you may experience flu-like symptoms such as headaches, bone and muscle aches and fatigue. Most side effects should subside within 48 hours of donating. Your stem cells replenish within 1 week.

We check up with you regularly after donation to make sure you are recovering properly. If you are not, we will arrange any necessary follow-up care.

Donating was a family affair. My mother, stepfather and older brother all stopped by making sure I was comfortable.

—Mark, PBSC donor

 

Possible Side Effects & Recovery

You may experience some pain, bruising and stiffness for up to two weeks after donation. Within a week of donating, you should be able to return to work, school and many regular activities. Your marrow will completely replenish itself within 3-6 weeks.

We check up with you regularly after donation to make sure you are recovering properly. If you are not, we will arrange any necessary follow-up care.

I went into the hospital in the morning, was put under anesthesia, and woke up an hour and 15 minutes later. When I woke up, I was more stiff than anything; like I slept in a really weird way. They asked how I felt. The pain was not bad. It was a dull, achy soreness. They made sure I was OK. I went home in the afternoon and rested for a couple of days. That was it.

—Christian, Bone Marrow Donor