Bone marrow transplant treats certain blood cancers including“ types of lymphoma, leukemia and other blood related conditions. It is usually done after the patient undergoes chemotherapy and other cancer treatment procedures. Blood cancers destroy or damage healthy blood cells. Bone marrow transplant replaces damaged blood cells with healthy blood cells. If successful, bone marrow transplant gives the blood cancer victim a fresh lease on life provided complications arising out of the procedure do not get out of hand.
- Bone marrow for the transplant is procured from a donor, usually a close relative.
- Bone marrow from the hip and thigh bones are the most preferred.
- By the time bone marrow transplant is done, the cancer patient is in a life and death situation.
- By now sustained and intensive cancer care has already damaged millions of blood cells, including healthy ones.
To reiterate, bone marrow transplant is intensive treatment and recovery from the operation can take a relatively longer time. Patients who undergo the procedure have to be mentally prepared and toughened to fight the adverse fallout from the operation. Bone marrow transplants come with their quota of risks.
For one, bone marrow transplant is a surgical procedure and by that definition, invasive; therefore, it brings with it risks associated with any major surgical, invasive procedure. It aims to replace damaged and destroyed blood cells with healthy bone marrow stem cells. It is the bone marrow – the soft, spongy tissue inside our bones — which produces blood cells. Any damage to them could be, among other reasons, because of blood cancers bone marrow transplant. Stem cells are the many not yet matured cells which later become blood cells.
When is bone marrow transplant done?
Before the bone marrow transplant, the blood cancer patient is usually given chemotherapy or radiation or both in three different ways: One is called ablative treatment, wherein high doses of chemotherapy or radiation or both are given together to destroy cancerous cells. Then, there is the reduced intensity treatment or mini treatment which involves lower doses of chemotherapy and radiation given before the major bone marrow transplant procedure. Mostly the elderly and those suffering from various other ailments are chosen.
Types of bone marrow transplants
That being said, there are three sorts of bone marrow transplants. One, the autologous bone marrow transplant. “Auto” as everybody will know translates to “self”. Meaning bone marrow is removed from the cancer patient before he/she undergoes high-dose radiation or chemotherapy. The removed bone marrow is stored in a freezer and post the high-dose treatment, they go back into the patient’s body to produce healthy and normal cells. Quite aptly, this procedure is also referred to as “rescue transplant!” The second procedure is called “Allogeneic transplant”. That’s because “allo” translates to “other”, meaning in this case, bone marrow containing stem cells are taken from another different person, a donor. The dna of the donor should match that of the patient. A “good match” is normally obtained from a sister or a brother; sometimes from a parent. A good match can also be traced to donors who are not relatives. A third procedure is called umbilical cord blood transplant in which stem cells are removed from a newborn’s umbilical cord and are frozen and stored till they are required for a transplant.
To round off a bone marrow transplant replaces damaged or destroyed marrow during chemotherapy and radiation. It is prescribed in blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma or myelodysplasia. Of course, there are risks involved, but the doctor/surgeon always takes all the risks into reckoning before carrying out the procedure. So, no need to worry. Bone marrow transplant has saved thousands and thousands of lives over the years and will continue to save thousands more.
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