Having a transplant
This page tells you about what happens when you have a stem cell or bone marrow transplant. There is information about
After your bone marrow or stem cells have been collected (harvested) you will need to have high dose chemotherapy treatment to kill any cancer cells in your body. Sometimes radiotherapy is given as well as the chemotherapy.
For a stem cell or bone marrow transplant, you usually have the chemotherapy through a central line. Central lines usually go into your body in the centre of your chest. Then they run up under your skin to a large vein by your collarbone. The only bit you can see is the length of line that hangs out of the small entry hole in your chest.
You can have other drugs through the central line too, for example anti sickness drugs. And you can have blood samples taken.
This is a picture of a central line in place.
The central line can stay in your vein for many months.
You usually have high dose chemotherapy over about 5 or 6 days, sometimes less. If you are going to have radiotherapy, you may have it at the beginning or end of the chemotherapy.
After you have finished all your treatment, you will have your bone marrow back. This is just like having a blood transfusion. The stem cells or bone marrow drips into your central line and into your bloodstream. The cells find their way back into your bones and start to grow again. Soon they start to make new blood cells for you.
When you have high dose chemotherapy, your blood has very low levels of blood cells afterwards. This means that you are at risk of picking up infections. You may be moved into a single room in the hospital ward to protect you from infection. You will stay in the single room until your bone marrow has started to make blood cells again and your blood counts have come up. This can take a few weeks.
Some centres don't isolate patients having autologous transplants (their own marrow or stem cells) because the risks of infection are relatively low. But patients having allogenic transplants (donated marrow) are often isolated.
While you are in isolation you can have visitors, but your nurses may suggest that you only see one or two each day. Your friends and relatives should not come to see you if they are unwell, or think they have been in contact with anyone with an infectious disease.
In certain circumstances, some treatment centres treat you as an outpatient straight after your bone marrow or stem cell transplant. You have to attend the hospital daily for blood tests and treatment. But you only have to stay in the hospital if you develop complications. Outpatient transplant treatment is becoming more common.
Being looked after in a single room can feel lonely. Some people find it frightening. It can help to talk to the nurses about your worries. They can reassure you.
Taking in some of your personal things can make the room feel more homely. Books, photographs and an ornament or two can brighten it up. You can also take in a mobile phone, laptop, electronic tablet or music player to make the time pass more enjoyably and keep in touch with friends and family.
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