Why you might need an autologous stem cell transplant
An autologous stem cell transplant is used to help your bolod counts recover after high dose chemotherapy. These transplants are most commonly used for patients with myeloma or relapsed lymphoma.
Stages of an autologous stem cell transplant
An autologous stem cell transplant has three stages: stem cell stimulation and collection, high dose chemotherapy and stem cell infusion.
Firstly, prior to chemotherapy or radiotherapy, the bone marrow is stimulated to produce an excess number of stem cells that enter your bloodstream. This involves receiving daily injections under the skin of a drug called G-CSF, which encourages the stem cells to enter the blood stream from the bone marrow where they usually reside. These stem cells are separated from your blood using an outpatient procedure called apheresis and then frozen for storage.
The second stage involves admitting you as an inpatient for high dose chemotherapy to try and kill the cancer cells. Because this treatment is intense, it wipes out the normal marrow stem cells. This means they need to be replaced with healthy stem cells.
The third stage occurs immediately after the end of the chemotherapy. The stem cells are thawed and painlessly returned into your bloodstream in a process similar to a blood transfusion. These stem cells then return to the bone marrow where they regenerate and restore your red blood cells, white blood cell and platelets after about two weeks.