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Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Transplantation


What is a bone marrow or stem cell transplantation?

A bone marrow or stem cell transplantation is a procedure to remove stem cells from blood or bone marrow. The stem cells are put into your body to treat disease. Stem cells are able to become other cells, such as red blood cells. Stem cells can also travel to your bone marrow and can become new bone marrow cells.

What are the types of stem cell transplants?

The type of transplant that you have is based on who donates the stem cells. You may have any of the following:

  • Autologous transplant: Your own stem cells are removed through a procedure called harvesting. Your stem cells may be transplanted into your body right after harvesting, or frozen and then thawed later. An autologous transplant is often used for cancers such as lymphoma, leukemia, and breast cancer.
  • Allogeneic transplant: You receive stem cells from a donor who may or may not be related to you. An allogeneic transplant is often used to treat bone marrow cancer or other bone marrow diseases.
  • Syngeneic transplant: You receive stem cells from your identical twin.

What happens before a stem cell transplant?

  • Before a stem cell transplant, you may receive cancer treatment, such as chemo or radiation. These treatments help kill cancer and other damaged cells. They may also help stop your immune system from attacking the transplanted cells.
  • If you have an autologous stem cell transplant, you will have your own blood or bone marrow harvested about 2 weeks before your transplant. Stem cells may be taken from your bone marrow or from a vein.

What happens during a stem cell transplant?

You will have a central line placed into a large vein near your collarbone, neck, or groin. Stem cells will be transplanted into your body through the central line. The procedure may take several hours.

What are the risks of a stem cell transplant?

  • Your body may reject the new stem cells. You may have stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. You may also have weight gain, a fever, or a rash. You may get sores inside your mouth. You may be unable get pregnant. You may lose too much blood and you may need a blood transfusion. Your immune system may not work as well as before the transplant, and you may get a serious infection.
  • You may get a blood clot in an arm or leg. The blood clot can break loose and travel to your lungs. A blood clot in your lungs can cause chest pain and trouble breathing. This problem can be life-threatening.
  • If you an autologous stem cell transplant, it may contain cancer cells, and the cancer may spread to other parts of your body. One or more of your organs may become damaged. Without a stem cell transplant, your condition may become worse and become life-threatening.

How can I prevent an infection?

  • Wash your hands often: Use soap and water. Use germ-killing gel if soap and water are not available. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, change a diaper, and sneeze. Wash your hands before you touch your face, and prepare or eat food.
  • Use safe food practices: Wash all fruits and vegetables before you eat them. Cook meat thoroughly. Store extra food and leftovers in the refrigerator within 2 hours after preparation.
  • Practice good hygiene: Bathe every day. Tell your caregiver if you notice sores on your skin. If you are female, always wipe from front to back after going to the bathroom. Do not use tampons. Tampons may increase your risk of an infection.
  • Avoid others who are sick: This includes people who have a cold, flu, infection, or rash. You may want to avoid crowded places, such a malls and elevators.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You have stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • You have a fever, gain weight, or get a rash.
  • Your heart rate is faster than normal.
  • You have sores, swelling, or redness in your mouth.
  • Your skin or the whites of your eyes turn yellow.
  • You have a cough that does not go away.
  • You have blood in your bowel movement or urine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have a seizure.
  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You have chest pain. You may have more pain when you take a deep breath or cough. You may cough up blood.
  • You have weakness in an arm or leg.
  • You become confused, or have difficulty speaking.
  • You have dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.