Bone Marrow Transplant – An Effective Way to Treat Cancer

Over the past half century, bone marrow transplant is widely used to treat various malignant and non-malignant diseases. With cutting-edge techniques, indications, and supportive therapy, it continues to be an advancing field in the treatment of human disease.

Healthy bone marrow cells and blood cells are required in order to live. When diseases affect the bone marrow, they can’t function effectively. The bone marrow transplant could be the best treatment option for patients in such type of case. Before diving deep into its types and procedure let’s first understand what it actually is.

Bone Marrow?

Bone marrow is soft, sticky tissues inside your bones that fill the medullary cavities. There are 2 types of bone marrow.

  • Red bone marrow which is commonly known as myeloid tissue
  • Yellow bone marrow or fatty tissue

Bone marrow makes more than 200 billion new blood cells on a daily basis.

What is a Bone Marrow Transplant?

It is a process to replace damaged or destroyed bone marrow with hale and hearty bone marrow stem cells. This bone marrow has been damaged or destroyed because of disease, infection, or chemotherapy.

In this procedure, transplanting blood stem cells are travel to the bone marrow. Here they make new blood cells and promote the development of new marrow.

A bone marrow transplant assists your body to produce an adequate amount of white blood cells, platelets, or red blood cells to stay away from infections, bleeding disorders, or anemia.

In this procedure, healthy stem cells are infused which either come from a donor or can come from your own body. In this type of case, stem cells can be harvested, or developed before starting of chemotherapy or radiation treatment. After that, these stem cells are stored and utilized in transplantation.

 The Necessity of a Bone Marrow Transplant

Through bone marrow transplant one can get healthy stem cells to replace his/her own damaged or destroyed bone marrow. Reasons, why bone marrow doesn’t work properly, could be chronic infections, chemotherapy, or diseases.

Reasons for bone marrow transplants are as follows.

  • Aplastic Anemia
  • Cancer
  • Damaged bone marrow due to infections
  • Thalassemia Sickle cell anemia
  • Congenital Neutropenia

Risks Associated with Bone Marrow Transplants

There are various risks associated with bone marrow transplants. It depends on the type of transplant, patient’s general health, age, and other factors.

  • Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea
  • Mucositis and Pain
  • Low Platelet and Red Cell Counts
  • Infections
  • Fluid Overload
  • Veno-occlusive Disease
  • Respiratory Distress
  • Graft-versus-host Disease (GVHD)
  • Graft Failure
  • Organ Damage
  • Disease Recurrence (Relapse)
  • Early Menopause
  • Anemia
  • Fever
  • A drop in Blood Pressure
  • Shortness of Breath

A patient should talk to his/her doctor if experiencing any kind of above symptoms. They can help in reducing risks and complications against the prospective advantages of this process.

Types of Bone Marrow Transplant

There are 2 types of bone marrow transplant.

  • Autologous Transplants

The term auto refers to self. In this type of transplants, the patient’s own stem cells are removed before he/she undergoes high-dose chemotherapy or radiation treatment.  These stem cells are stored in the freezer and after the high-dose treatments; these stem cells are put back in the patient’s body to produce normal blood cells. This type of transplant is a rescue transplant.

  • Allogeneic Transplants

The term allo means other. In this type of transplant, stem cells are removed from a donor. Those stem cells must at least partly match the patient’s genes. Special tests are conducted to check it out whether a donor is a good match for a patient or not.

Mostly brother, sister, parents are good matches. A donor who is not related to the patient can be an also good match and may be found through bone marrow registries.

How to Prepare for a Bone Marrow Transplant

  • Pre-transplant tests and procedures

Prior to transplant, a patient will undergo a series of tests and procedures to assess his/her overall health and status of his/her condition and to make sure he/she is physically prepared for the transplants. This assessment may take several days or more and even bone marrow transplants take up to a week.

  • Arrangements Before First Transplant Session

One should make at least following arrangements before receiving bone marrow transplant treatment.

  • Rent a house near the hospital for relatives and family members
  • Insurance coverage, payment of bills, and other financial concerns
  • Take leave from work
  • Clothes and other necessitates
  • Travel arrangement to and from the hospital

How a Bone Marrow Transplant Procedure is performed?

When a doctor thinks a patient is ready for a bone marrow transplant (BMT) treatment, he/she starts with the basic treatment. This transplantation procedure is similar to blood transfusion. If a transplant is done using the patient’s own stem cell then a patient will go under a procedure called apheresis to collect blood stem cells. Before this treatment, he/she will get daily injections of growth factor to raise stem cell production and move stem cells into his/her circulating blood so that they can be collected.

If the allogeneic transplant is planned then donor’s stem cells are gathered for the treatment. It is often known as a stem cell harvest or bone marrow harvest. A doctor decides which type of transplantation is best suited for a patient’s condition. In this type of transplant, another way to collect stem cell is from the blood of umbilical cords. Mothers can donate umbilical cords after giving birth to her child. This blood is then frozen and stored in a cord blood bank until required for a bone marrow transplant.

What to Expect After a Bone Marrow Transplant?

The success of bone marrow transplant is ultimately depending on how closely patient and donor genetically match. After the transplantation, the condition of patient’s engraftment will be regularly monitored. It is usually complete between 10 to 30 days and if white blood cell count is rising then it’s an indication of successful treatment.

Recovery generally takes 3 to 4 months or sometimes it takes around 1 year.  Recovery depends on various factors such as chemotherapy, the condition being treated, donor match, radiation, and where the transplant is performed.

To sign off

A bone marrow transplant can treat some diseases and put others into remission. Aims of a bone marrow transplant depend on an individual’s situation but typically comprise controlling or curing disease, extending a patient’s life, and improving a patient’s quality of life.

Some developed countries like Turkey, Malaysia, Thailand, and India are the most popular destinations for bone marrow transplantation. The reason behind this is crystal-clear: minimal cost, procedural expertise, and unmatched service.

About the Author

Mila Jones is a Senior Business Consultant, with rich experience in the domains of technology consulting and strategy, she works with both established technology brands and market entrants to offer research inputs and insights on leveraging technology as a source of strategic competitive advantage. She is a prolific author and shares her expertise with tech enthusiasts on popular digital publishing platforms. She loves not only to write about several topics but also loves to explore new ideas about Lifestyle, Travel blogs and many more.

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