Tissue Donation FAQ

Next tissue donation event:

Oct. 19, 2024, in Indianapolis

For the purposes of this study, a person is healthy if they show no sign of breast cancer,

To be eligible to donate, they:

  • Must be a biological male or female, 
  • Must be at least 18 years of age, 
  • Must have the ability to understand and the willingness to sign an informed consent document, 
  • Must not have breast implants, 
  • Must not be allergic to local anesthetics, such as lidocaine, 
  • Must not be receiving any therapeutic blood thinner stronger than aspirin, 
  • Must not have ever had radiation to the chest (e.g. as treatment for lung or other cancers). 
  • Must not currently be undergoing or have previously undergone medical/surgical transitioning to a gender not previously assigned at birth. 

Note: breast cancer survivors may donate, but only if the above criteria are met and they have one completely unaffected breast.

There are differing levels of discomfort; most individuals report not experiencing much pain (“rather like when blood is taken at the doctor’s office”.) There may be slight stinging when the lidocaine (local anesthetic) is administered.

The tissue is collected using a vacuum-assist device, which uses a needle and air. This device will remove all tissue cores in quick succession.

The sample is taken from the upper, outer quadrant of the breast near the armpit.

  • Your skin will be cleaned, then numbed with lidocaine. 
  • The physician nicks the skin with a scalpel, and the needle is inserted into this incision. 
  • Several sample cores are removed from the breast (about the size of 3 small peas). 
  • A nurse / surgeon’s assistant holds pressure on the incision for 10 full minutes, then applies a pressure bandage. 
  • The donor will be given an ice pack to put inside the bra or secured with an ACE bandage. 
  • For male donors, an ultrasound will be used to assist the biopsy procedure. If the physician determines there is not enough tissue, the biopsy will not be done. 

How Tissue Donation Works

Everyone has a different experience with bruising, ranging from not at all to quite a bit. There may be minimal scarring, often so small or faint it is barely visible.

  • If you are taking any medications, please bring a list of them with you.
  • There is no need for any particular type of ID or other paperwork.
  • You may find it more comfortable to wear a sports bra, as it will make it easier to apply the ice pack.

If applicable, please bring contact information for your mammogram provider (you will be asked to allow us to request a copy of your mammogram on your behalf). Please note: the request for a mammogram only applies if you have had, or intend in the near future to have, a mammogram. Submission of a mammogram is not a prerequisite for tissue donation.

I’ll do anything I can to help stop breast cancer from affecting any more people.

Anonymous — Tissue Donor

About the Susan G. Komen Tissue Bank

The Komen Tissue Bank is the only repository in the world for normal breast tissue and matched serum, plasma, and DNA. We are transforming breast cancer research by offering normal, high-quality, richly annotated tissue samples to scientists worldwide.

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