Having a stem-cell transplant is a major challenge for your body. As you recover in the first weeks and months, you are likely to feel fatigued and weak. Certain side effects, like flu-like symptoms, nausea, and a changed sense of taste, are common. Try to be patient: You're building a brand-new immune system, and this takes time. Your doctors will monitor you closely and give you medications to prevent problems.
Along with these typical side effects, you may experience complications. Some come from the high-dose chemotherapy and radiation that may be part of the transplant process. (These may be less likely if you have had a "mini-transplant" with low-dose chemotherapy and radiation.) Other complications are caused by your body's attempts to reject donor stem cells.
Carcinoma of unknown primary (CUP) is a rare disease in which malignant (cancer) cells are found in the body but the place the cancer began is not known.
Cancer can form in any tissue of the body. The primary cancer (the cancer that first formed) can spread to other parts of the body. This process is called metastasis. Cancer cells usually look like the cells in the type of tissue in which the cancer began. For example, breast cancer cells may spread to the lung. Because the cancer began in the...
Less often, some patients experience cataracts, infertility (if total-body radiation is given), and new, secondary cancers, sometimes as long as a decade after the original cancer.
There are many ways your doctor can help you with these complications. Antibiotics, antifungal medications, and antiviral medications can help prevent and treat bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. Growth factor drugs will speed the development of your new immune system, and transfusions may prevent or treat bleeding and anemia.
Complications From Transplants Using Donor Stem Cells
The most frequent complication is called graft-versus-host disease (GvHD). It develops when blood cells formed from the donor's stem cells think your cells are foreign and attack them. Between 30% and 70% of patients with a donor stem cell transplant get some form of GvHD. It may be mild, serious, or even life threatening.
dry and damaged mouth, esophagus, lungs, and other organs
The chances of graft-versus-host disease increase when you and the donor are not closely matched. Having extensive chemotherapy and/or radiation before the transplant also raises risk. To prevent and treat GvHD, you may need a combination of antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral drugs, as well as steroids and other therapies to lessen the immune response. Drugs used to prevent and treat graft-versus-host syndrome include anti-thymocyte globulin, cyclosporine, methotrexate, sirolimus, tacrolimus, and in some cases, even rituximab.