Prior to your transplant, you will be seen in the outpatient clinic and the team will determine the best type of conditioning treatment for your transplant. You may receive radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of both to kill cancer cells and prepare your body for the transplant. This type of conditioning and is necessary for a few reasons:
- If you are receiving donor cells (allogeneic transplantation), chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy suppresses your immune system so your body does not reject the new cells. If you have cancer, it also helps destroy the tumor.
- If you are receiving your own treated cells (autologous transplantation), chemotherapy or radiation can be used immediately before the transplant to destroy any tumors.
You may receive one of two types of radiation therapy:
- Targeted radiation therapy treats a specific area of your body.
- Total body irradiation (TBI) is administered to your entire body
Chemotherapy is another treatment that rids the body of cancer or blood disease. Chemotherapy is a mixture of medications that destroys diseased tissue. Depending on your particular condition, we may need to administer one or more types of chemotherapy (with or without radiation therapy) as part of your transplantation treatment. Our goal is to rid your body of all traces of the disease. We may administer the drugs intravenously (an IV) or in pill form.
Features of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital’s radiation and chemotherapy program include:
- Convenience: Everything you need for your care is located onsite. If we recommend chemotherapy or radiation therapy, you can usually receive the necessary treatments at our facility. We provide for all aspects of your care at MedStar Georgetown. In some cases, we may recommend that your referring physician give you chemotherapy or radiation before your transplantation in the management of our disease leading up to the transplant.
- Seamless communication: Your transplant team will work closely with the chemotherapy and radiation teams. We provide continuous, integrated care and communicate regularly regarding your treatment.
- Expert team: Our radiation and chemotherapy team has years of experience working with bone marrow and stem cell transplantation patients. We will help you manage any side effects and discomfort you may experience.
Infusion and Transplantation
Once we have finished the conditioning regimen we can begin the transplant procedure. The actual transplantation procedure for bone marrow or blood stem cell infusion is relatively quick and simple. You may be receiving your own bone marrow/stem cells or bone marrow/stem cells from a donor. In either case, the transplant resembles a blood transfusion. There are generally few side effects.
Here is a general idea of what you can expect:
- We give you medicine approximately 30 minutes before the infusion to help reduce any potential side effects.
- The stem cells are injected through your IV catheter.
- You remain awake during the procedure; it will not hurt.
- The process takes anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours. The amount of time depends on the amount of fluid in the stem cell product.
After your transplant, you will need to remain in the hospital’s transplant unit until your bone marrow has recovered. The expected hospital stay for an autologous transplant is two to three weeks. The expected hospital stay for allogeneic transplant is three to four weeks. While you are recovering, our experienced, dedicated transplant nurses will care for you. During this period, we will test your blood daily to track your progress. We will also monitor you carefully for side effects from chemotherapy and radiation, as well as for infections, graft vs. host disease (if you have an allogeneic transplant), and graft failure.
You will be required to follow-up and have regular check-ups with the stem cell transplant clinic at MedStar Georgetown after the completion of your transplant. In addition, you will need a caregiver to be on hand to help you on a day-to-day basis during your recovery for the first two weeks of recovery for autologous transplant and for the first one-hundred days following an allogeneic transplant.
Who Can Be a Caregiver?
A caregiver can be anyone that is family member, friend or a well-wisher willing to assist you with day-to-day care such as taking medication and participating in regular doctors’ visits. MedStar Georgetown offers a comprehensive class focused on educating caregivers on what they need to assist in recovery of bone marrow transplantation.
Make an Appointment
For more information or to schedule an appointment with a specialist, please call our scheduling line.