Myths & Facts

Click on the bubbles below to find out the common Myths and the Facts behind them!

Tell me more about stem cell donation and medical concerns.

Stem cell donor Billy Cheung, who donated his stem cells through his bone marrow in 2004 tells us how easy it is to donate stem cells nowadays. For more information about Billy, please visit his Donor Profile.

Fact: Approximately 80% of stem cell donations come from peripheral blood. This method is similar to donating blood and it is done in an outpatient clinic. Blood is extracted through a needle and is passed through a machine that collects the stem cells. The remaining blood is returned to the donor’s body through the other arm. 20% of stem cell donations come from the bone marrow of the pelvic bone. This procedure is done under general anesthesia. The donor does not experience pain during either procedure.

Note: The patient’s doctor will decide which type of donation is best for the patient.

Fact: During bone marrow donations, stem cells are collected from the iliac crest of the pelvic bone so the donor’s spinal cord is unaffected.

Fact:The body replaces the stem cells within six weeks. After donating, most donors are back to their usual routine in a few days.

Fact: Bone marrow donors can expect to feel some soreness in their lower back. Donors have likened it to the same soreness one gets if he/she were to slip and fall on ice. There have also been reports of donors feeling tired and having some discomfort walking for a couple of days or longer. Most donors are back to their usual routine in a few days. Some may take a few weeks before they feel completely recovered. Peripheral blood stem cell donors report varying symptoms including headache, bone or muscle pain, nausea, insomnia and fatigue but these effects disappear shortly after donating.

Fact: A wide variety of diseases and disorders are treated with stem cell transplants, including blood-related diseases, such as leukemia and aplastic anemia, as well as immune system and metabolic disorders.

Fact: Patients who are in need of stem cell transplants specifically require hematopoietic stem cells which are immature blood cells. Unlike embryonic stem cells, hematopoietic stem cells have a limited potency as they can only differentiate into cells that belong to the circulatory system.

Is it easy to find a matching donor?

Fact: A perfect bone marrow match isn’t always available. In fact, in extreme cases, the odds of a match may be as little as one in 750,000 or less. (That’s like your chances of being struck by lightning!) The goal of searching bone marrow registries is to find the best available unrelated matches, giving patients the greatest possible chance of a positive outcome. And the only way to find these matches is to search a large pool of potential donors with varied ethnic and racial backgrounds. This is why we encourage people of varying ethnic origins to become registrants in the stem cell donor registry.

Fact: The requirements for finding a match are so precise that only about 25% of those in need can receive a transplant from a sibling in their own family. 75% of patients still need to rely on a total stranger to give them a second chance at life. That is why there is the Canadian Blood Services Stem Cell and Marrow Network – a network of Canadians who are ready to donate to any patient in need.

What are the myths about becoming a stem cell donor?

Fact: Unfortunately, we are only accepting potential registrants between the ages of 17-35. The minimum age for donation is 17 as current medical information tells us that 17 is the earliest age to safely donate. (We have this regulation in place because the safety of the donor is extremely important to us.) The maximum age for potential registrants is set at 35 because research indicates that younger donors are associated with better long-term survival rates for patients. However, if you are not eligible to become a member of the registry, please read the following myth below: “If I can’t register as a potential donor, I can’t help the cause” to learn more about how you can still help our cause.

Fact: Although our focus is on the Chinese community, we are more than happy to register anyone who fits the criteria for becoming a potential stem cell donor. This is because any individual can have difficulty finding a matching donor, depending on the complexity of the genetic typing they have inherited. That’s why it’s important for as many Canadians – no matter what their ethnic background – to join Canadian Blood Services.

Fact: If you are a male between the ages of 17-35, you’re considered an optimal stem cell donor because stem cells from young male donors offer better long-term survival rates for patients. However, all donors represent more hope for patients around the world and so females between the ages of 17-35 are also welcomed to join the registry.

Fact: As a registrant of the Canadian Blood Services stem cell registry, you will always have the right to say no. However, please recognize that if you withdraw from the stem cell donation process, you may put the patient’s life in jeopardy. To prepare for a transplant, the recipient is usually given high doses of radiation and/or chemotherapy to destroy the diseased bone marrow. If the donor does not follow through with providing the patient with the necessary stem cells, the patient will not have enough white blood cells to protect his/her system against surrounding bacteria. For this reason, we encourage you to be informed and committed before becoming a registrant in the stem cell donor registry.

Fact: Even if you aren’t registered with Canadian Blood Services, there are still many things you can do to help patients in need!

  1. Spread the word. Tell your friends and family that men between the ages of 17-35 are needed in the stem cell donor registry. You can also follow us on Twitter!
  2. Like our Facebook page. For every “like” we get, we receive $1 from our sponsor.
  3. Donate blood with Canadian Blood Services. Patients undergoing stem cell transplants require 8 units of blood per week. (That’s a lot!) The restrictions for registration as a blood donor are different from stem cell donation so we encourage you to see if you are eligible.
  4. Donate your baby’s cord blood with Canadian Blood Services. Cord blood stem cell transplants are used for treating over 50 blood related diseases and disorders and you can donate publicly in four easy steps. To find out more, please refer to the official Canadian Blood Services website.
  5. Volunteer with OtherHalf. We get busy during the summer so all help is welcomed!
  6. Give a financial gift to OtherHalf.
    For more details on how to contribute to the cause, please visit Get Involved.