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Treatment: Stem Cell Transplant

In a stem cell transplant, cancerous or abnormal blood-producing cells (haemopoietic stem cells) are replaced with healthy ones. Before a stem cell transplant, the recipient is given chemotherapy and radiotherapy to eliminate his or her own, abnormal, stem cells; immunosuppressant drugs may also be given to prevent rejection of the donated stem cells. The healthy stem cells may have been supplied by a donor or by the patient when the underlying disease was inactive. The healthy stem cells are usually obtained directly from the blood using a procedure similar to that of a normal blood donation. Healthy stem cells may also sometimes be obtained from the bone marrow, in which case the transplant procedure is usually known as a bone marrow transplant.

Receiving new stem cells

Healthy stem cells are given directly into the bloodstream using a catheter. It takes 3–5 weeks for the donated stem cells to produce mature, healthy cells. Until this occurs, the patient is extremely vulnerable to infection.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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