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Myths and Facts

Learn about the myths and facts of donation:

Myth: There is only one type of blood and marrow transplant.

Fact: Several types of blood and marrow transplants are available. With allogeneic BMT, donor sources can be a relative, unrelated donor, or umbilical cord blood. Syngeneic BMT uses a recipient’s twin as the donor. With autologous BMT, bone marrow is extracted from the patient prior to transplant and is transplanted back into the patient.

Myth: BMT only treats leukemia.

Fact: A BMT can treat many types of cancer, including multiple types of leukemia, Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. BMTs can also treat several syndromes that are inherited or developed after birth, such as sickle cell disease.

Myth: Donating marrow is really painful.

Fact: Registering as a donor is completely painless – many registries require only a cheek swab – and can help save a life. With advancements in technology, the stigma of a painful bone marrow transplant is slowly fading. Donors feel little to no pain during the procedure, and usually feel no more than aches or pains similar to a pulled muscle. Since most BMTs use adult stem cells collected from a donor’s blood, many donors feel nothing afterward.

Myth: If I’m a woman, then my donor will need to be one, too.

Fact: A good match is determined more by the specific proteins in a donor’s blood, not by gender. These markers are inherited from both parents.

Myth: If I’m a woman and my donor is a man, I’ll receive more than his blood and marrow – I’ll develop masculine traits.

Fact: A BMT from the opposite sex will affect only the recipient’s blood and marrow cells and immune system. Much like getting blood donated from the opposite gender, a BMT will not give the recipient any of the donor’s gender traits.

Myth: Since mothers are related so closely to their children, they will be the best match.

Fact: Most people – 70 percent of patients – do not have a close enough match in their family. Each person inherits blood markers from both parents, so the closest match within a family would be an identical twin, a brother, or a sister from the same parents.

Myth: Getting a BMT means you’ll stay in the hospital for several months.

Fact: With today’s technology and advanced treatments, some BMT patients can receive the treatment without staying overnight at a hospital. The actual transplant is usually conducted in a hospital, but much of the follow-up care can be done on an outpatient basis. The donation process is done on an outpatient basis, without the need of an overnight hospital stay.