Stem Cell Transplantation
A stem cell transplant or a bone marrow transplant is a treatment for certain types of cancer or when the bone marrow stops working and can’t produce enough healthy cells. The procedure involves an infusion of healthy cells (called stem cells) in the body to replace the damaged cells or a diseased bone marrow. There are two types of transplantations – one involves using your own healthy cells (autologous transplant) and the other involves using cells from a donor (allogenic stem cell transplant). The high doses of chemotherapy or full body radiation kill the cancer cells but also end up killing the healthy stem cells which are required to survive. Thus, after the rigorous cancer treatments, a transplant may be required to regenerate healthy cells in the bone marrow. With a stem cell transplantation, you can also take higher doses of treatment, which gives you a better chance to cure cancer than regular chemotherapy.
A stem cell replacement will help you to generate new stem cells in the body that can help to destroy the cancer cells directly. Also, it gives you the opportunity to safely opt for heavy chemo and radiation and thus, gives you a better chance of fighting cancer. The procedure is also useful to treat cancerous and noncancerous diseases including: • Chronic and severe leukaemia • Bone marrow failure syndrome • Aplastic anaemia • POEMS syndrome • Plasma cell disorders • Immunity deficiency • Multiple myelomas • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma • Primary amyloidosis
The doctor will conduct a series of tests over a few days to check if you are physically fit for the cell transplantation. The doctor will also insert a long thin tube from your neck or chest into a large vein in the body. This tube is used to infuse the transplanted stem cells and other blood products and medicines into your body. Once the pre-transplantation process and tests are done, the next step is the conditioning process. Here, you will undergo chemotherapy and radiation in order to: • Prepare your bone marrow for new stem cells • Remove the cancerous cells • Curb your immune system Depending on the condition you’re being treated for, you might have to undergo both chemotherapy and radiation or any one of them. The following are some of the expected ill effects of the conditioning process: • Infection in the body • Excessive bleeding • Hair loss • Diarrhoea • Constant fatigue • Ulcers • Infertility • Cataract • Nausea and vomiting
Once the conditioning is done, the stem cell surgery can be performed. You don’t require an anaesthesia for this procedure and thus, the doctor will keep you awake. The new stem cells are infused into your body using the thin tube inserted before. This is a painless procedure so you need not worry about staying awake or feeling any discomfort. After the transplanted cells enter your body, they start producing new blood cells in a process called engraftment. This helps your body recover the blood count. The blood cells contain a preservative called dimethyl sulfoxide that helps in guarding the cells. Before the procedure begins, the doctor might also give some medications in order to reduce the adverse effects of this preservative. Some common symptoms include fever and chills, nausea, hives, diarrhoea and red urine.
Once the procedure is completed, the doctor will keep you under observation and continuously monitor your health. In case there is any complication or infection, you might have to stay longer in the hospital. Before you leave the hospital, you must be able to eat food and drinks on your own without any difficulty, not have any fever, vomiting or diarrhoea and have safe levels of blood counts. Recovery can take anywhere between 30 to 100 days after the transplant, depending on your prevalent condition and overall health. It can take 6 to 12 months before your immune system recovers completely.
RISK AND COMPLICATIONS
The transplantation comes with a certain set of risks and complications that your doctor will explain before beginning the procedure. Some of the common risks include: • Infection in the body • Development of new cancer cells • Infertility • Stem cell failure • Graft vs. host disease – this occurs when the new stem cells build a new immune system and consider your body’s tissues and organs as foreign, thus putting them at risk • Death in rare cases
If you’re considering traveling to India for a stem cell transplantation, you can be assured of state-of-the-art medical care and advanced treatment technologies. India has become a preferred destination for medical tourism as the cost is relatively low compared to western countries but the treatment quality is substantially high. Normally, Approximate Cost : $6000 Duration : 30 - 45 Days.