•Q: Why is there a need for donors to join the NMDP Registry?

A: On any given day, more than 6,000 men, women and children desperately search the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) Registry for a matching bone marrow donor or cord blood unit. These patients have leukemia, lymphoma and other life-threatening diseases that can be treated by a bone marrow or cord blood transplant. Even with a Registry of millions, there are many patients waiting and hoping, unable to find a match. Donors with diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds are especially needed.


    •Q: What is a bone marrow transplant?

          A: Bone marrow transplant is a life-saving treatment for people with leukemia, lymphoma and many other diseases. First, patients undergo chemotherapy and sometimes radiation to destroy their diseased marrow. Then a donor's healthy blood-forming cells are given directly into the patient's bloodstream, where they can begin to function and multiply.

In order for a patient's body to accept these healthy cells, the donor's tissue type needs to match the patient's type as closely as possible. Patients who do not have a suitably matched donor in their family may search the NMDP Registry for an unrelated bone marrow donor or cord blood unit.

    •Q: Why is there a cost associated with joining the Registry?

       A: When you join the NMDP Registry, you may or may not be asked to pay the costs of your tissue typing. Costs depend on resources and support available. Your tissue type is used to match you to patients and is identified by testing a sample of your blood or cheek cells. On average, the tissue typing to add each new donor to our Registry costs $50.

Sometimes, a sponsor may cover all or part of these tissue-typing costs. Other times, there is no sponsor to cover the costs, and donors are asked to pay the tissue-tying cost when they join. We count on people like you to help offset these costs. Any contribution you make to pay for tissue-typing costs is appreciated and tax deductible. To help cover the cost of tissue typing for new donors, contribute now

•Q: What is my commitment if I join?

         A: When you join the NMDP Registry, you make a commitment to:

•Be listed on the Registry until your 61st birthday, unless you ask to be removed.

•Consider donating to any searching patient who matches your tissue type.

•Keep us updated if your address changes, you have significant health changes or you ever change your mind about being a donor.

•Respond quickly if you are contacted as a potential match for a patient.
You have the right to change your mind about being a donor at any time. Donating is always voluntary.

If you decide you do not want to donate, let us know right away. That way we can continue the search for another donor without dangerous — even life-threatening — delays for the patient.


•    Q: Why does a person have to be 18 to be a donor? Can't my parent sign the consent for me?

         A: The NMDP requires volunteer bone marrow donors to be between the ages of 18 and 60, which is standard medical practice. An individual must be 18 to donate because marrow donation is a surgical procedure and the person undergoing the procedure must legally be able to give informed consent. A guardian or parent cannot sign a release or give consent because unrelated bone marrow donation is a voluntary procedure and is not beneficial or life-saving to the donor.

•Q: If I'm over 60, why can't I join?

A: The age limit is not meant to discriminate. The NMDP must use chronological age to determine eligibility to protect the safety of the donor and provide the best possible treatment for the patient. With age comes a small increase in the risk of side effects from anesthesia.

Q: If I join the NMDP Registry, how likely is it that I will donate to someone?

A: We cannot predict the likelihood because there is so much diversity in tissue types. You may never be identified as a match for someone needing a transplant. Or, if yours is a common tissue type, you may be identified along with a number of other potential donors who match a patient. The patient's doctor decides which donors will be contacted.

         If we call to say you are a match for a patient, you may be the one who can save the patient's life.

Q: Does race or ethnicity affect matching?

A: Racial and ethnic heritage are very important factors. Because tissue types are inherited, patients are most likely to match someone of their own race or ethnicity. Today, there simply aren't enough registered donors of diverse racial and ethnic heritage. Adding more diverse donors increases the likelihood that all patients will find a life-saving match.

Donors of these backgrounds are especially needed:

•Black or African American

•American Indian or Alaska Native


•Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander

•Hispanic or Latino

•Mixed heritage

•Q: What is the donation process like?

     A: Adult donors may be asked to donate in one of two ways:

•Peripheral blood cell (PBSC) donation involves removing a donor's blood through a sterile needle in one arm. The blood is passed through a machine that separates out the cells used in transplants. The remaining blood is returned through the other arm.

            • Bone marrow donation is a surgical procedure done under general or regional anesthesia so the donor                          experiences no pain during the collection process.
For an overview of the donation process, see Steps of Bone Marrow & PBSC Donation.      

•Q: Can I get tested for a specific patient or family member?

A: When you join the NMDP Registry, you make a commitment to consider donating to any searching patient who matches your tissue type. As a volunteer, you are never under any legal obligation to donate and your decision is always respected. However, because a late decision not to donate can be life-threatening to a patient, please think seriously about your commitment before deciding to join our Registry.

You can request a copy of your own tissue typing results after you join the NMDP Registry. However, if you want to be tested only for a specific patient, you will need to have your tissue typing test done privately. You can contact the patient's transplant center or transplant doctor for more information.




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