Stem Cell Transplant for Multiple Myeloma
The patient receives high-dose chemotherapy before a stem cell transplant to kill the cells in the bone marrow. The patient is then given new blood-forming stem cells that are healthy. The new stem cells came from bone marrow when stem cell transplants were initially produced, hence this was referred to as a bone marrow transplant. Blood stem cells are now more commonly harvested (a peripheral blood stem cell transplant).
Stem cell transplant is commonly used to treat multiple myeloma. Before the transplant, drug treatment is used to reduce the number of myeloma cells in the patient’s body.
What Is the Life Expectancy After a Stem Cell Transplant?
Conditional on surviving the first 2 to 5 years after stem cell transplantation, the 10-year overall survival approaches 80 percent, so as long as symptoms are managed, and your immune system stays functioning and healthy; long-term survival is possible and common!
How Long Does It Take to Recover from a Stem Cell Transplant for Multiple Myeloma?
Typical recovery time for a bone marrow transplant is about three months. However, it may take up to a year for you to recover fully. Recovery depends on numerous factors, including:
- the condition being treated
- donor match
- where the transplant is performed
There’s a possibility that some of the symptoms you experience after the transplant will remain with you for the rest of your life.
Who Is a Good Candidate for a Stem Cell Transplant?
People who are good candidates for a stem cell transplant usually are younger than 70, do not have other diseases such as heart disease or diabetes, and have a normal kidney and liver. Your doctor will also consider how much your disease has grown and how aggressive your cancer is.
What Is the Procedure for a Stem Cell Transplant?
When your doctor thinks you’re ready, you’ll have the transplant. The procedure is similar to a blood transfusion.
If you’re having an allogeneic transplant, bone marrow cells will be harvested from your donor a day or two before your procedure. If your own cells are being used, they’ll be retrieved from the stem cell bank.
Cells are collected in two ways.
During a bone marrow harvest, cells are collected from both hipbones through a needle. You’re under anesthesia for this procedure, meaning you’ll be asleep and free of any pain.
A donor receives five doses during leukapheresis to help the stem cells migrate from the bone marrow into the bloodstream. An intravenous (IV) line is used to obtain blood, and a machine separates the white blood cells that contain stem cells.
On the upper right side of your chest, a needle called a central venous catheter, or a port, will be implanted. This permits the new stem cell-containing fluid to flow directly into your heart. Following that, the stem cells disperse throughout your body. They pass through your bloodstream and into the marrow of your bones. They’ll establish themselves and grow there.
Because the bone marrow transplant is done in numerous sessions over a few days, the port is left in place. The new stem cells have the best chance of integrating into your body if you have multiple sessions. Engraftment is the term for this procedure.
You’ll also get blood transfusions, drinks, and potentially nutrition through this channel. It’s possible that you’ll require antibiotics to combat infections and aid the growth of your new bone marrow. This is contingent on your ability to cope with the therapies.
During this time, you’ll be closely monitored for any complications.
What Are the Side Effects of a Stem Cell Transplant?
A bone marrow transplant is considered a major medical procedure and increases your risk of experiencing:
- a drop in blood pressure
- a headache
- shortness of breath
- a fever
The above symptoms are typically short-lived, but a bone marrow transplant can cause complications. Your chances of developing these complications depend on several factors, including:
- your age
- your overall health
- the disease you’re being treated for
- the type of transplant you’ve received
Complications can be mild or very serious, and they can include:
- graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), which is a condition in which donor cells attack your body
- graft failure, which occurs when transplanted cells don’t begin producing new cells as planned
- bleeding in the lungs, brain, and other parts of the body
- cataracts, which is characterized by clouding in the lens of the eye
- damage to vital organs
- early menopause
- anemia, which occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells
- nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
- mucositis, which is a condition that causes inflammation and soreness in the mouth, throat, and stomach
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have. They can help you weigh the risks and complications against the potential benefits of this procedure.