Why should I join the stem cell donor register?
The following selection of UK based stats and facts should help you understand why it is important to join the register. Note the stats are even starker in India.
- Blood cancer is the fifth most common type of cancer in the UK and the third biggest cancer killer. It accounts for 9% of all new cases of cancer diagnosed in the UK.
- About 2,000 people (with a range of blood disorders) need a stem cell transplant from a stranger every year.
- Only 1 in 3 find a matching donor in their own family, so many have to look for an unrelated donor.
- Finding a matching blood stem cell donor can be difficult as matches are determined by HLA typing (tissue typing). There are thousands of different HLA characteristics, in millions of combinations.
- Only 0.4% of the world population are registered as potential blood stem cell donors.
- Only 2% of people in the UK are registered as stem cell donors.
- Currently, only 69% of patients can find the best possible match from a stranger, and this drops dramatically to 20% if you're a patient from a black, Asian or ethnic minority background. By building and diversifying our register we will be able provide the best match to even more people with blood cancer.
- More young men are needed, as they are most likely to be chosen to donate but make up just 18% of the register.
Above all though, registration is very easy, and donation is relatively easy also. There couldn't be an easier way to save lives.
If I am a match, what does donation involve?
1. Verification of match
A small sample of blood is collected to verify the HLA typing.
2. Master Health Checkup
A series of tests are done to ensure the donor is ﬁt and does not have any infectious diseases like Hepatitis B,HIV etc.
The donor will donate blood stem cells either by PBSC or Bone Marrow Donation methods. This will be done at a donation centre closest to you (always within your country). You should be comfortable with both methods before you register.
The blood stem cells collected are transported to the patient anywhere in the world.
What are the two methods for donating stem cells?
1. Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Donation
The process used for 80% of donations across the world. It is similar to a blood platelets donation. Blood from one arm is let to ﬂow into an Apheresis machine, the blood stem cells are separated and remaining blood components like RBC, WBC, etc are sent back into the donor.
2. Bone Marrow Blood Stem Cell Donation
For remaining donations, and in particular, usually where the receiving patient is a child, this method is used. It is a traditional method that is in practice for more than 40 years. Bone marrow is extracted from the hip bone under general anesthesia and requires one or more days hospital stay.
What do I have to do to register?
For most registers, you fill out a form on line, where your eligibility will be checked. If you are eligible, you will be sent a swab test kit through the post. You spend a few minutes swabbing the inside of your cheek with the swabs provided, let them dry off, and pop them back in the envelope provided to send back to the registering organisation. It's as simple as that.
If you would prefer to be walked through the registration process, you can come along to a registration drive event (see our Facebook Events page for events that will be happening near you), where volunteers will assist you in completing the registration process.