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Bone Marrow Transplant Overview

Bone marrow transplant procedure is often the only solution for a range of bone marrow cancers and cancers affecting the blood cells and cell development such as leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, and others. Also, adults with severe sickle cell disease were successfully treated with a stem cell transplant procedure that doesn't require extensive immune-suppressing drugs.

The major aim of bone marrow transplant is to renew one’s blood stem cells and slow down or annihilate the bone marrow cancer.

Bone marrow transplant procedure is not a new one but developments in medicine result in growth in bone marrow transplant success rates. For this reason, gradually more doctors decide for the transplantation of bone marrow cells by seeing it as an ultimate solution for bone marrow cancers.

In this article, we will share with you detailed information about bone marrow, including disease and treatment stages.

Bone Marrow Cancer Symptoms

To typical bone marrow cancer symptoms belongs to the feeling of weakness and tiredness which persists despite a good rest and healthy diet. Additionally, patients with bone marrow cancers such as multiple myeloma or others complain about bone pain, damage to the bones which is not explainable with accidents or traumas, often infections and numbness in legs. If you experience these bone marrow cancer symptoms, we advise you to check with your doctor to get a proper diagnosis.
• Feeling weakness and tiredness
• Weight loss
• Bone pain
• Damage to the bones without any explainable reasons
• Anemia
• Numbness
• Kidney Problems
• Hypercalcemia


What is Bone Marrow Cancer?

Bone marrow cancer is a form of cancer that starts in the marrow (inside the bones). The main job of marrow is to make blood cells. Cancer occurs when a tumor or any abnormal mass of tissue appears.

There are many types of bone marrow cancers:
• Multiple Myeloma
• Lymphomas
• Leukemia
• Childhood Leukemia

READ: Does Being Overweight Increase Cancer Risk?

Bone Marrow Transplant Procedure

Bone marrow transplant procedure is performed to replace bone marrow damaged or destroyed by disease, infection, or chemotherapy. In this procedure, blood stem cells are being transplanted to help them travel to the bone marrow where they produce new blood cells and promote the growth of new healthy marrow.

It may take several weeks to finish the bone marrow transplantation and even longer to expect any results. After thorough tests which are to establish the patient’s ability to undergo the bone marrow transplant procedure, the bone marrow donation procedure is performed. More precisely, the blood stem cells are looked for, and these may be extracted through a bone marrow donation (removal of bone marrow cells with a syringe), from blood, or umbilical cord blood. As for blood stem cells recovered from blood, the procedure of extraction may be repeated to harvest enough blood stem cells to conduct a successful bone marrow transplant procedure.

Bone marrow donation process may be conducted under a general (direct bone marrow donation) or no anesthesia. Then, the so-called ‘conditioning’ takes place. Conditioning, also known as bone marrow preparation or myeloablation, is a treatment performed through high-dose chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. During this part of the bone marrow transplant process, the patient undergoes chemotherapy to kill bone marrow cancer cells as well as lower the risk of conflict between donated blood stem cells and the receiver’s immunologic system.

Finally, the bone marrow transplantation may take place, in which blood stem cells are injected into the patient’s body. Then, as a part of the bone marrow transplant recovery time, the patient has to stay a couple of weeks in the hospital in order to make sure that the bone marrow transplant procedure has succeeded.

A bone marrow transplant is an effective treatment for some types of cancer. But the procedure can cause side effects which may differ according to the patient. Side effects may go away in time. But some of them can be permanent in short-term or long-term. Managing the symptoms, which can include anemia, is an important part of cancer care and treatment.

READ: 5 Things You Should Know About Bone Marrow Transplant

Bone Marrow Transplant Types

There are two general types of bone marrow transplant. These are:
• Autologous stem cell transplant – in this type of bone marrow transplant procedure, the blood stem cells are collected from patients themselves – bone marrow cells from healthy bones are transplanted into the area where bone marrow cancer has spread. It is the safest bone marrow transplant procedure since there is no risk of conflict between the donor and receiver of bone marrow cells. There is also less risk of graft-versus-host disease, in which the new donor cells think your cells are foreign and attack them.

• Allogeneic stem cell transplant – in allogeneic stem cell transplant, a suitable donor is chosen among family members or from the database. Allogeneic stem cell transplant may happen only if it is unlikely that conflict between donated blood stem cells and the patient’s cells will happen. Additionally, doctors try to increase the chance of successful bone marrow transplant by applying medicines which are to suppress a possible conflict of bone marrow cells. Stem cells transplanted by this method are cancer-free. As the transplant creates a new immune system, the cancer-killing effect resumes after the operation.

Bone Marrow Transplant Donor Risks

We are happy to announce that bone marrow transplant donor risks are minimal and include possible reaction to anesthesia if a direct bone marrow donation is performed.
Otherwise, there is nothing to worry about. Moreover – through the bone marrow donation process you may save one’s life.

Bone Marrow Transplant Success Rates

Within the last 10-15 years, the bone marrow transplant success rates have grown exponentially. While they may differ due to various types of bone marrow cancers and bone marrow-related cancers, in general, bone marrow transplant success rates (where threshold is assumed to be the 1-year survival, later on, the risk of complications decreases significantly) are estimated to be at 75-90% depending on the type of bone marrow transplantation (allogeneic stem cell transplantation leads to a lower survival rate) as well as the type of bone marrow cancer. It is a great improvement as compared to the results of the bone marrow transplant procedure just a couple years ago.

Bone marrow transplant surgery has a long track record of success rates on treating certain cancers. While being older is no longer considered a barrier to receiving this treatment, making sure that it is proper for you and that you’re prepared for this process are of paramount importance during decision-making.

READ: Bone Marrow Transplant Costs Around the World


This content is edited by Flymedi Medical Editors in March, 2019. 


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