Bone marrow transplantation is a treatment where the patient’s own blood-forming cells are harvested and then re-infused back into their body. This procedure is performed to treat a variety of cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, and for some patients who have failed previous chemotherapy regimens.
The price of a bone marrow transplant is quite expensive for an ordinary man, but it is one of the best treatments for blood cancer. There are several organizations and government schemes that help many people to get transplants at an affordable price.
Adjuvant treatment option
There are a few adjuvants treatment options that are used with bone marrow transplants to help patients to recover easily and rapidly. Some of the methods are:
- Myeloablative Conditioning Regimen
The myeloablative conditioning regimen is a type of cancer therapy that involves using high doses of radiation and/or chemotherapy before the transplant. These treatments are designed to kill off any remaining cancerous cells and allow the donor stem cells to engraft fully into the recipient.
- Immunosuppressive Medications
Immunosuppressive medications are drugs that help prevent the immune system from attacking the new cells being introduced into the body. Drugs like cyclosporine, methotrexate, and steroids are commonly used to suppress the reaction of the immune system to the transplanted cells.
Recovery from bone marrow transplant
Recovery from a stem cell transplant will take time. It varies from person to person and is determined by your condition, previous treatments, and any issues you may have had.
In general, recuperation time is:
- An autologous transplant takes 3 to 6 months.
This is sometimes referred to as a rescue transplant. This is a bone marrow transplant in which healthy stem cells are extracted from your body via a technique known as apheresis. Before performing apheresis, the number of stem cells must be boosted.
- Allogeneic Transplantation takes 12 to 18 months.
Healthy stem cells are extracted from someone else in this sort of transplant (a donor). This donor might be a member of your family or someone unrelated to you. The donor marrow tissue is tested for compatibility, and the transplant is only performed if the tissues match. The stem cells are extracted from the donor during the bone marrow or stem cell harvesting process. The stem cells can be extracted from the donor’s bone marrow or blood.
Umbilical cord blood transplants are one form of an allogeneic bone marrow transplant. The stem cells in a newborn infant’s umbilical cord are extracted as soon as the baby is born. These extracted stem cells are frozen and stored. These are suitable for transplant. Because these cells are still young, they are quite likely to be a close match. However, because the stem cells from the umbilical cord are fewer in number, it may take longer for cell creation to begin following the transplant.
You will still need to return to the hospital on a frequent basis to monitor the development of your transplant and your overall health.
You may require the following items while in the hospital:
- Medicine to suppress your immune system in order to reduce the likelihood of transplant rejection
- Antibiotics for infection prevention
- Transfusions of platelets, plasma, and red blood cells to avoid bleeding and anemia
- Frequent blood testing to see if the new bone marrow stem cells are taking hold or being rejected
The stem cells are administered through your central line during the transplant, much like a blood transfusion or chemotherapy.
The procedure is simple and will take between 30 minutes and 4 hours to complete. During your stem cell infusion, you will be closely watched.
In the days following your transplant, your treatment team will continuously observe you. They will take your blood often to confirm that your body has absorbed the new stem cells and that the stem cells are functioning properly in your bone marrow.
Complications of BMT
Bone marrow transplant is one of the life-saving methods used to treat blood cancer. It comes with some complications which affect other organs as well. Some of the common symptoms that may be experienced by a patient after a bone marrow transplant are nausea, vomiting, breathing difficulties, fatigue, and loss of appetite. But these complications are temporary and reversible using some medications. Apart from that, there is a serious complication that can become a big issue if not treated early, that is:
Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD)
Graft versus host disease occurs when the transplanted stem cells attack the recipients’ organs instead of supporting them. Common symptoms may include fever, rash, diarrhea, mouth sores, liver problems, and low white blood counts. A bone marrow transplant is considered successful if the patient survives the initial post-transplant period without developing graft versus host disease.
- Acute GVHD
Acute graft versus host disease occurs when newly infused cells begin to attack the host organs. Symptoms may include fever, diarrhea, mouth sores, skin rashes, low white blood count, and liver problems. Patients with acute graft versus host disease often need to take additional immunosuppressive medications to control the condition.
- Chronic GVHD
Chronic graft versus host disease occurs after the initial transplant and is characterized by inflammation of the host organs. Symptoms include fatigue, fever, weight loss, mouth sores, diarrhea, and abnormal liver function tests. Patients with chronic graft versus host disease require additional immunosuppressive medication to manage the condition.
Engraftment refers to the time at which the donor stem cells start replacing the recipient’s original cells. If the donor stem cells successfully engraft, patients should be able to rid themselves of the side effects associated with graft versus host disease. However, if they do not engraft, their bodies still recognize these foreign cells as their own and reject them.
Getting back home
Blood tests and bone marrow samples reveal when blood cell counts begin to climb when new blood cells are produced. If this occurs, and there are no complications, you may be permitted to return home or relocate near the transplant center. You must stay nearby in case of an emergency and need to return to the hospital.
Most transplant centers will not release your home unless you satisfy the following criteria:
- You haven’t experienced a fever in the last 24 to 48 hours.
- You’ve been taking medicines and keeping them down for 48 hours.
- Medication controls your symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- You are able to consume sufficient food and drinks.
- You have normal blood cell counts.
- At home, you have someone to assist you.
If you are unable to achieve these requirements, you may be transferred from the transplant unit to another section of the hospital.
When you leave the hospital, make sure you follow the recommendations for self-care at home.
The information contained above is intended solely for informational purposes only. No information provided here should be construed as medical advice. Consult your physician before beginning any medicinal treatment.