Survey reveals widespread misconceptions about stem cell donation
The charity Anthony Nolan is launching an urgent appeal for 10,000 young men to join its blood stem cell donor register. However, a ComRes survey into public awareness of blood stem cell (or bone marrow) donation has found that while 24% of people would definitely consider joining the stem cell register and most people (54%) would consider it, there is still widespread confusion about what it is and what donating entails.
A stem cell transplant can be the last hope of survival for a patient with blood cancer such as leukaemia or lymphoma.
Of those who wouldn’t join the register, or who were unsure about the decision, the survey found that 37% of people said they did not know enough about donating stem cells; around 1 in 3 (31%) feared that donating stem cells would be painful and 9% thought it would actually endanger their health. A sizeable minority, 19% of all people surveyed said they would not even consider joining the register.
In fact, more than 80% of donors today do so via a process where stem cells are taken from the blood stream. 25 year old Callum MacDonald-Wood from Leeds, who donated earlier this year, explained “Donating was a bit like giving blood. I was hooked up a machine that took the blood out from my arm and filtered it, then the blood went back into my body via my other arm. It took about four hours, but there was no pain. But I could have saved someone’s life.”
The survey found the fears about the pain of the process were most prevalent among young audiences, with 43% of 18 to 25 year olds citing this concern. However, young adults, and particularly young men, are the donors Anthony Nolan most needs to recruit.
This week the charity is launching an appeal to get 10,000 more young men to join its donor register. Over 80% of the donors selected by transplant centres are men, but this group constitutes less than half of the Anthony Nolan register.
Professor Charles Craddock, Anthony Nolan’s medical director and a consultant at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, explained: “When the transplant team look for a matching donor for their patient, they ideally want someone fit and healthy and as men are usually bigger we are likely to get more stem cells from them.
“There are a lot of misunderstandings about what it means to donate blood stem cells. But I’d urge young people, particularly young men, to find out more about the process – it’s very easy to join the register and if you are asked to donate, you could save someone’s life.”
Olly Rofix, a transplant recipient, who received a transplant in 2006, said, “I’d encourage every young man to join the register – without my donor, I’d be long gone. Joining the register is such an incredible thing to do and you could save someone’s life. Anthony Nolan can only find donors for half the people who need them, so more young male potential donors would help them save even more lives.”
The survey, conducted by ComRes for Anthony Nolan (formerly The Anthony Nolan Trust), was commissioned to investigate the reasons why people choose not to join the charity’s register, as Anthony Nolan can only find matching donors for half the people who need lifesaving transplants. ComRes surveyed 2,049 members of the public online between 21st and 25th June 2011. Data were weighted to be representative demographically of all GB adults. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.