What does it mean to be a match?

For many patients with blood cancer, there is a cure: a bone marrow transplant from a matching donor. Just registering as a bone marrow donor means giving blood cancer patients hope for a second chance at life. In many cases, your bone marrow might be the only match to someone in need, which means your donation is a patient’s only chance at survival. Here’s what you need to know about being a match, and how likely it is that you’ll be a match for a patient.

For four-year-old Owen Allman, his cure was Steven Marincel, a 27 year old man from Chicago. After being diagnosed with blood cancer as an infant, Owen’s only option for survival was a life-saving bone marrow transplant. Owen’s parents and family are forever grateful that Owen was able to find a match, and more importantly, that match said yes.

After communicating with Steven for years, the Allman’s decided it was finally time to introduce their son to his hero. Steven and Owen quickly bonded over toys, books, baseball, and even their future careers in the medical field. Thankfully, Owen was too young to remember the pain cancer brought him. Hopefully, he will remember the fun had and joy felt on this day forever. Steven says his decision to register for the bone marrow registry was not only a simple one, but one of the best decisions he has ever made, because he was able to save a life.

Owen Allman’s story is just one of the thousands with a happy ending like this. While 30% of patients are able to find a matching donor in their family, 70% of patients depend on the generous donations of complete strangers.

The chances of a patient finding a match depend greatly on their racial background; 25% of African-American patients, 40% of Asian patients, 45% of Hispanic patients, and 75% of Caucasian patients are able to find a donor. The odds of finding a match for a racially or ethnically diverse blood cancer patient are lower due to lack of diversity on the registry. If you are eligible, and especially if you come from racially diverse community, we urge you to join the bone marrow registry today.

After joining the registry, there is a 1 in 40 chance a bone marrow donor will be called for additional testing, and a 1 in 300 chance they will be selected as the best possible match for the patient. The odds of being a match are only increasing on account of advancements in medical science. Rather than waiting for a perfect match, bone marrow donors can now successfully donate to a patient who is only a half-match.

The length of time it takes for bone marrow donors to find their potential match can vary greatly, ranging from a couple of weeks to years. But no matter the duration, if you support the bone marrow registry, there is always the chance that you will be able to save a blood cancer patient’s life. Join or support the registry to be someone’s cure.