An important weapon when it comes to the fight against certain blood cancers happens to be stem cell transplant. In the fight against leukemia, multiple myeloma, Hodgkin lymphoma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, it can work wonders and may help you to live longer. In several cases, it has been observed that it was able to cure blood cancers as well.
Yearly, around 50,000 transplantations are performed. Each year, this number is increasing by 10-20%. After having this type of transplantation, more than 20,000 patients have been able to live for five years or longer.
How it works?
It is the job of the become a stem cell donor to produce blood cells in healthy bone marrow. It also includes white blood cells which you must know is crucial to your immune system. Blood cancer will damage your bone marrow. Unfortunately, radiation and chemotherapy treatments also do the same. This type of transplantation will let new stem cells take over from the damaged marrow. As a result, you body will be able to produce cancer-free, healthy blood cells.
Your doctor will want to use stem cells from a donor. On the other hand, he/she might want to use stem cells taken from your own blood. The doctor needs to find a matching donor if he/she planning to use a donor’s cells. If your own stem cells are used then the blood will be drawn when the cancer is not active. No matter whose cell the doctor will be taking, the patient needs to have radiation and/or chemotherapy beforehand. This is because, it will kill the cancer cells and also destroy the damaged stem cell. So, with the transplantation the transplanted stem cells can take over.
You may be able to have an outpatient stem cell transplant if you are using your own cells. For it you need to have no other serious medical condition. It will be best to live nearby the hospital and also have a caregiver present who will be able to monitor you at home. The home environment must be prepared carefully, and you need to wear a mask when you will be stepping out.
Here what to expect from the transplant process:
Before the transplant
- Your donor or you will be injected with special medicine because of which blood-forming stem cells from the bone marrow will enter the blood stream. It will be injected 4-5 days before the blood will be drawn.
- The stem cells will be separated from the rest of the blood. Then it will be frozen.
- The patient will be given low or high dose of radiation and/or chemotherapy. These conditioning treatments will be provided to ensure the cancer cells are killed and stem cells are destroyed. It is done to ensure transplanted stem cells can take over.
During the transplant
Infusion of the stem cells will be provided through a surgical port in your neck (central line). During this time, nurses will check on you continuously to ensure you do not develop issues like hives, fever, drop in blood pressure and chills. You may suffer from mild side effects like flushing, headache, shortness of breath and nausea.
After the transplant
- After 2 to 4 weeks, your new immune system will start to work. The transplanted stem cell will graft to the bone marrow and start producing new white blood cells. You body will start to make platelets and red blood cells eventually.
- In case of donor cells, the patient will be injected with anti-rejection drugs and antibiotics. This will help the patient accept the transplanted cells successfully.
- For the first few weeks you need to stay in a germ-free environment.
- For next six months you will need to make regular visits to outpatient clinic.
These were everything that you can expect from a stem cell transplant. Contact your doctor for stem cell match information.
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Gift of Life Marrow Registry Address: 800 Yamato Rd suite 101 Boca Raton, FL Phone: (800) 962-7769