Frequently Asked Questions for Tissue Donors

Keep in mind that each donor is different, and will have somewhat of a different experience from the next person. The following FAQs are answered based on feedback from donors.

Is the tissue removal painful (“Will it hurt?”)?

There are differing levels of discomfort; most women 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.

How is the tissue actually removed?

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

From where in the breast is the tissue taken?

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

Can you give me a detailed outline of the procedure?

  • 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.
  • Three sample cores are removed from the breast.
  • 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.

Will I have a bruise or a scar?

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.

What do I need to bring with me to the collection event?

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.  We also request that you arrange to bring us a digital copy of your mammogram. You may bring this with you, or you can arrange to have it mailed to us by your mammogram provider. In order to assist with this process, please download the Letter to Mammogram Provider and the Mammogram Request Guidelines forms. 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.

After I have donated may I resume my normal activities for the day?

As long as you do nothing strenuous it is fine to immediately resume regular activities, however, please refrain from any heavy lifting or hard physical activity, such as playing tennis. You may resume working out and playing sports after 24 hours.

How old is too old to participate?

There is no upper age limit. In effect, if you fulfill the donor qualifications, you may donate; however, please be sure to pay special attention to the parameters involving mental acuity,  joint replacement, and foreign objects in the body.

May I donate again?

If you wish, you may donate a second time. In order to allow others to participate, at this time individuals are being held to a total limit of two tissue donations.

Can I donate if I have dense or fibrocystic breasts?

Yes, having dense or fibrocystic breasts does not prohibit you from donating tissue.

Am I allowed to donate if I have had breast cancer?

Yes, but only if you have an unaffected breast.

I am planning to have a breast reduction.  Can I donate the tissue the surgeon removes to the Tissue Bank?

No.  The KTB follows a strict protocol which governs how and from whom our tissue is collected.  In addition, our Standard Operating Procedures outline in exact detail how the tissue and blood samples must be processed.  As we would be incapable of ensuring that these regulations would be enacted, the Komen Tissue Bank is unable to accept donations of tissue from breast reduction procedures.

What should I do if I have no email address or internet access?

Please call our Events Coordinator at 317-274-4051.

Where can I find research published using the KTB samples?

Please click here to find a listing of manuscripts published which have used samples from the Komen Tissue Bank.