Advances in the treatment of cancer and improvements in supportive care over the past 10 years have improved the results and tolerability of stem cell transplants. However, a stem cell transplant remains an involved and potentially dangerous procedure. For autologous transplantation, the patient receives his or her own bone marrow or stem cells that were collected and frozen before admission for high-dose chemotherapy or radiation.
A stem cell transplant specialist will begin the evaluation by reviewing your medical record and history, performing a physical exam and discussing the procedure with you. If your doctor decides that you are a candidate for an autologous stem cell transplant, he or she will recommend a treatment plan.
Before being admitted to the hospital, you will have several days of laboratory and other diagnostic tests to determine if you have normal function of the heart, lungs, kidney and liver and that you do not have an undiagnosed infection. Most of these tests will be done as an outpatient before you are admitted to the hospital, but others may need to be completed after you are admitted for treatment. These tests may include:
Chemotherapy begins soon after you are admitted to the hospital, after stem cell collection. Your doctor will discuss all of the drugs you will receive and their side effects. Your nurse practitioner, inpatient nurse and pharmacist also will be available to answer questions. In addition, you may receive written information on these drugs in a consent form.
The body feels the effects of the chemotherapy or radiation about a week after transplantation. When the blood counts are low, you feel like you have the flu and may not want to do much. This will last for about two weeks and will decrease as your blood counts improve. You may notice a number of other symptoms as well, including:
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.