Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter

Bone marrow transplants for non Hodgkin lymphoma

Men and women discussing non Hodgkin's lymphoma

This page tells you about bone marrow transplants for non Hodgkin lymphoma. You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Bone marrow transplants for non Hodgkin lymphoma

Bone marrow transplants are a way of giving very high dose chemotherapy, sometimes with radiotherapy to the whole body (total body irradiation). This treatment aims to try to cure some types of lymphoma. These days more people have stem cell transplants than bone marrow transplants. But you might have a bone marrow transplant if collecting stem cells is difficult.

The bone marrow is the spongy substance inside your bones which makes all your blood cells. High doses of chemotherapy drugs kill off any remaining NHL cells in your bone marrow. But it also kills off the stem cells in the bone marrow so you can't then make any red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets. So doctors or specialist nurses can take out some of your bone marrow before you have the chemotherapy and freeze it. This is called a bone marrow harvest.

After high dose chemotherapy

After you have had the chemotherapy, you have your bone marrow back through a drip. Then you can make the blood cells you need again. This is called an autologous bone marrow transplant. 

Using donor bone marrow

You may have bone marrow donated by another person (usually a brother or sister). This is called an allogeneic transplant.

Having a bone marrow harvest

To have marrow taken, you have a general anaesthetic. The doctor puts a needle through the skin into your hip bone. They suck out the marrow through the needle into a syringe. Occasionally, the doctor uses the breast bone as well. When you wake up you will feel very sore and bruised. Your doctor or nurse will give you some painkillers to take.
 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Treating NHL section.

 

 

Why you may have a bone marrow transplant

Your doctor may suggest a bone marrow transplant for non Hodgkin lymphoma if

  • Your lymphoma is in remission but is likely to come back
  • Your lymphoma is in a second remission
  • Your lymphoma has not responded to other treatment
 

What a bone marrow transplant is

Bone marrow transplants are a way of giving very high dose chemotherapy, sometimes with radiotherapy to the whole body (total body irradiation). This treatment aims to try to cure some types of cancer. Because higher doses of treatment can be given, there may be more chance of curing a lymphoma than with standard dose chemotherapy.

The bone marrow is the spongy substance inside your bones which makes all your blood cells. High doses of chemotherapy drugs kill off any remaining NHL cells. But it also damages your bone marrow so that it can't make any blood cells. So before you have the high dose chemotherapy, doctors can take out some of your bone marrow and freeze it. Collecting the bone marrow is called a bone marrow harvest. The bone marrow is then stored.

After you have had the high dose chemotherapy, the bone marrow is thawed and you have it back through a drip (transfusion). Then you can make the blood cells you need again. This is called an autologous bone marrow transplant.

You can find information about having high dose chemotherapy and total body radiotherapy on the next page in this section.

These days more people have stem cell transplants than bone marrow transplants. Using stem cells means you don't need an anaesthetic to collect the cells. And your blood counts may recover more quickly after the high dose chemotherapy. But you might have a bone marrow transplant if collecting stem cells is difficult.

We have information about stem cell transplants for NHL.

 

Using donor bone marrow

You may have bone marrow donated by another person (usually a brother or sister) if their bone marrow matches yours. A transplant of bone marrow from another person is called an allogeneic transplant. This type of transplant is sometimes done if your lymphoma comes back after a transplant using your own cells or marrow. But allogeneic transplants have more side effects and complications, and this treatment is not suitable for everyone.

 

Collecting your bone marrow

Whether you are the patient or a bone marrow donor you have the same procedure. Collecting the bone marrow is called a bone marrow harvest.

To have marrow taken, you have a general anaesthetic. To remove the marrow, the doctor puts a needle through the skin into your hip bone (pelvis). They suck out the bone marrow through the needle into a syringe. To get enough marrow, the doctor usually has to put the needle into several different parts of the pelvis. Occasionally, the doctor uses the breast bone (sternum) as well. About two pints of bone marrow are removed and frozen.

When you wake up, you will have up to about six puncture sites covered with plasters. You will feel very sore and bruised. The soreness can last for up to a week. Your doctor will give you some painkillers to take.

You usually have to stay in hospital overnight after a bone marrow harvest. This is to make sure you have recovered from the anaesthetic. You may also need a blood transfusion afterwards.

 

More information about transplants

In our cancer treatment section there is detailed information about bone marrow transplants.

We also have information about

If you would like more information about anything to do with bone marrow and stem cell transplants, phone the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They will be happy to answer any questions that you have.

You can also contact one of the organisations on the non Hodgkin lymphoma organisations page. They often have free factsheets and booklets they can send to you.

If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use Cancer Chat, our online forum.

Rate this page:
Submit rating

 

Rated 5 out of 5 based on 4 votes
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

No Error

Updated: 26 September 2014