Nine Things That Shouldn’t Scare You Away From Becoming A Stem Cell Donor

1. I don’t have time to donate

Nine out of ten people donate their stem cells via their bloodstream.

A nurse will come to you over four days – at home or at work – and give you a course of injections to make your body produce stem cells. On the fifth day, you’ll head to one of our specialist hospitals and your donation will begin! You’re connected to a machine which collects stem cells from your blood, and this takes about four to five hours. Donors often spend the time drinking tea, watching films or chatting to the friend or family member they’ve brought with them. For the other 10% of people, they donate via their bone marrow in a short procedure under general anaesthetic. You’ll stay in hospital overnight, but most donors go home by the following afternoon.

2. It’ll be a headache to organise

Anthony Nolan stays in touch with all donors throughout the donation process, helping with travel, costs, taking time off work and any questions along the way.

Your job is to donate, everything else will be sorted. Christiern was studying at university at the time of his donation, and said: “Anthony Nolan provided a letter to my university explaining the situation. I was given extra time to complete the coursework that was due during the donation process.”

3. It’s going to hurt

A lot of people are worried about donating in case it hurts. Adam, 23, thought the same.

He said: “It was the easiest thing I’ve ever done – I just sat on a bed. The worst part was pulling the plasters off my arms!”

4. I’m too old

You have to be aged 16-30 to sign up to the Anthony Nolan register, but if you’re outside this age range you can still get involved and help people who need a transplant.

You can fundraise by completing challenges and events, campaign to raise awareness, or become a volunteer, and spread the message about stem cell donation to a wider audience.

5. I can’t afford the travel costs

Our donors will be asked to travel to London or Sheffield to donate. Not only will Anthony Nolan organise and pay for your journey, they’ll also cover the costs for a companion to accompany you. Donating really doesn’t cost you a penny.

6. I’m scared of needles

No-one particularly likes needles, but the donation process is made to be as painless as possible.

Like nine out of ten people, 22-year-old Thomas donated via his bloodstream, and says, “My friends mainly asked ‘Did it hurt? Was it really painful?’. I told them no, it’s just a needle in your arm and they even numb your arm so you literally can’t even feel it.”

7. The application process will take forever

The online application form is the first step in becoming a potential stem cell donor. It asks some basic health and situational questions before sending out a spit kit for you to send back by post. No blood tests, no GP visits, you don’t even have to leave the house.

8. I’m gay, can I join the register?

50% of gay and bisexual men believe they can’t join the register to become a potential stem cell donor. However, as all those on the register go through the same medical checks; sexuality doesn’t come into it.

Donor Mark, 30, said: “I found out that gay men can donate with Anthony Nolan. It was a nice surprise to see that I could do this, but it does feel like common sense too.”

9. There are enough people on the register already

There are more than 650,000 people on the Anthony Nolan register, but that’s still less than 2% of people in the UK.

Currently, fewer than 70% of northern European patients can find the best possible match from a stranger. This drops to 20.5% for those from black, Asian or other ethnic minority backgrounds, because of a shortage of donors with heritage from these communities.

We especially need more young men aged 16-30 to join – they’re most likely to be chosen to donate, but make up just 16% of the register. By signing up, you really could save a life.

To join the Anthony Nolan register, visit And if you’ve still got questions, get in touch – we’ll be happy to answer them!