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How does the stem cell transplant process work?

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Quick Answer

The stem cell transplant process works by infusing the body with stem cells to stimulate the growth of healthy bone marrow. Prior to the actual transplantation procedure, patients undergo a conditioning treatment via chemotherapy or radiation therapy, states the American Cancer Society.

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Full Answer

Stem cell transplantation is a medical procedure that is recommended for people with blood-related hereditary conditions or those with malignant diseases, such as leukemia, myeloma and certain forms of lymphoma, explains the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The transplant process initially involves subjecting patients to a bone marrow preparatory stage, also referred to as myeloablation.

The conditioning treatment can be in the form of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. This preliminary phase is performed for several reasons, including to free some space in the patient's bone marrow for the infused stem cells, to suppress the immune system to minimize the likelihood of infection and to thoroughly eliminate cancerous cells from the body.

Once the patient has adequately recovered from the conditioning therapy, the stem cells are then intravenously administered through an IV catheter. When frozen stem cells are used, medications may be given to the patient prior to the infusion process to prevent adverse reactions to the preservatives contained in frozen stem cells.

Stem cell transplant patients undergo a rehabilitation program following the procedure. Ideally, it can take from 6 months to a year before blood counts normalize and the immune system is fully functional, notes the American Cancer Society.

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