What Happens During a Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplant?
When a person suffers from blood-related cancers such as Hodgkin’s Lymphoma or Leukemia, that person’s bone marrow might produce an abnormal level of cells that can prove to be dangerous to their bodies.
So yeah, the patient is given cancer-killing drugs along with some radiation to finally rid their bodies of those dreaded cancer cells. However, the procedures are known to kill off other cells as well.
In order for the body to replenish its cells, it cannot be through ordinary means; it has to undergo a transplantation process. When a person undergoes chemotherapy/radiation therapy, their bone marrows are almost always the ones that are being depleted of its reserves. Therefore, it is imperative that they undergo a bone marrow transplant to help restore their blood cell levels to normal.
What is a Bone Marrow Transplant?
Your bone marrow is that spongy part that is usually found in the middle of a large bone cavity in your body. They are typically found in your pelvic bone and other similar structures in your system.
That being said, the bone marrow is responsible for the creation of the red and white blood cells, and it is also the site for the creation of platelets as well. The first two is responsible for transporting oxygen and other nutrients in the body while the latter handles the blood-clotting mechanism.
Anyway, since your bone marrow typically does not work after a chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant is needed. Because the said part of the body contains stem cells, the procedure can also be called Stem Cell Transplant as well.
Autologous and Allogeneic
The two primary types of stem cell transplants are Autologous and Allogeneic. Autologous is from the Greek word “Auto” meaning “Self”. Your own bone marrow will be the one that will supply the stem cells that are going to be infused back in your body.
Allogeneic, on the other hand, is derived from the Greek word meaning “Other”, which means that the stem cells originate from anybody other than yours. This process involves the extraction of the said cells from the body of the donor to be transplanted to your body in the future.
For Allogeneic transplants, the donor must be compatible with you. They will be subjected through a series of tests to find if the donor is a perfect match. The medical professionals will usually look at their HLA or human leukocyte antigens content. If they have the same proteins as yours, then they’re most likely a suitable candidate for stem cell extraction.
Another thing to note for Allo transplants is that the patient might undergo Ablative or Reduced-Intensity chemotherapy sessions. The former is where they run through the normal intensity of drugs while the latter is where the intensity is reduced, albeit still strong enough to deter cancer cells from spreading.
Which Transplant is for You?
This question can only be answered by your attending physician. To know what the best possible treatment for you is going to be, you will be given a battery of tests and the result will tell the doctor which procedure you should be getting. Of course, it is also based on other factors as well such as age, health, and pre-existing medical conditions (if there are any).