Bone marrow is spongy tissue deep inside your bones. It’s where most of your blood cells are made and stored. Those include stem cells, which can grow into all different types of blood cells.
If you have a certain type of cancer or a disorder that affects your blood or your immune system, your doctor may recommend a bone marrow transplant. The unhealthy bone marrow will be destroyed, and you’ll get healthy stem cells in its place.
Your doctor will want to make sure your body’s strong enough to go through a transplant. The tests needed to do that could be spread out over several days:
- Blood tests to see how well your liver and kidneys are working and to make sure you don’t have an infectious disease
- Chest X-rays to look for signs of lung disease or infection
- Electrocardiogram (EKG) to check your heart’s rhythm and makes sure it’s beating the way it should
- Echocardiogram (Echo) to look for problems in your heart and the blood vessels around it
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan to see how healthy your organs are
- Biopsy to help your doctor predict if your cancer is likely to come back after the transplant. They’ll take some of your cancer cells and send them to a lab for a closer look.
After the tests are done, you’ll meet with your doctor to talk about the results.
Start a Central Line
If your doctor thinks you’re healthy enough to have the transplant, the next step is to have a central line put in. They’ll put a catheter (a long thin tube) into a large vein in your neck or chest that will stay there throughout your transplant. This will make it easier to give you medicine (including chemotherapy). You also might get new healthy bone marrow cells through it.
Chemotherapy and Radiation
Before the transplant, you’ll need chemotherapy and possibly radiation to kill cancer cells in your body and make room for new stem cells. They also slow down your immune system so your body’s more likely to accept the transplant.
You may need to go into the hospital for about a week for this part of the process. Soon after it’s finished, your transplant will be done.
Keep in Mind
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have. You also might want to join a local or online support group. Talking to other people who’ve gone through one (or who are about to) could help ease your mind.