An Outline on What Happens During a Stem Cell Transplant
Stem cell therapy (sometimes known as stem cell treatment) is the process wherein stem cells will be transplanted in your body to cure what ails you. This is typically used in patients who suffer blood-related disorders, but it can also be used to treat other medical conditions as well.
That being said, what does happen when you get a stem cell transplant? Today, I am going to give you a sort of an outline of what usually happens when you receive the said treatment.
The very first step that you need to do is to have yourself assessed by your doctor. If you are suffering from a blood-related disease such as Leukemia or Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, then a stem cell treatment might be suitable for you.
What usually happens is that the doctor will evaluate you by giving you a series of tests and physical examinations.
The evaluation will include:
- Your basic information (age, health history, etc.)
- Your Psychological tests (if any)
- HLA Tissue Typing (so that you can get matched to a donor)
- Heart and Blood Tests
- Bone Marrow Biopsy
- MRI and X-Ray Scans
- Tuberculosis Skin Test
- Lung Function Tests
- And Many More
After the evaluation, the doctor will then create a treatment plan that is suitable for you. They might also tell you which transplant they’re going to give you after assessing your own bone marrow.
If the stem cells that they’re going to use are your own, then it is called an Autologous Transplant. If the cells come from a donor that is compatible with you, then it is called an Allogeneic Transplant.
This is the phase where you are given a dose of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. This is to ensure a couple of things:
- That your body is primed to receive the transplant
- To kill any existing cancer cell in the body
- To suppress the immune system so that it will not attack the infused stem cells.
After receiving cancer-killing drugs, your body is now ready to receive the transplant. The infusion of the stem cells commonly happens through a central line in your chest.
You might feel a couple of side effects including flushing, fever, chills, shortness of breath, and headaches (emphasis on the word “might” because not all patients suffer any of the symptoms and there are also some who might experience all).
After Transplant/Recovery Phase
After the procedure is done, you will immediately start with your recovery phase. A medical care team will monitor you for a couple of days just to make sure that everything is alright.
It usually takes 1-4 weeks depending on the condition of the patient. They will monitor your blood counts and they will also look for any signs or symptoms of possible infection.
Once you’re given the signal to go home, you need to be quarantined in a clean space. This is so that the possibility of contracting diseases or infections will be greatly reduced.
You will be required to undergo some follow-up check-ups from time to time. Do note that you can expect a full recovery at least 12-15 months after the transplant. It really takes a long time, but rest assured that as time progresses, your condition will gradually improve as well.