Your stem cell transplant consultation: Questions to ask

Your doctor may recommend that you undergo a stem cell transplant if you’ve been diagnosed with a blood cancer, such as leukemia, lymphoma or multiple myeloma, or a bone marrow failure syndrome like myelodysplastic syndrome or aplastic anemia. A stem cell transplant replaces blood cells that have been damaged by cancer and chemotherapy with healthy cells. Before you move forward with a stem cell transplant, you’ll need to consult with a transplant doctor. We talked with Borje S. Andersson, M.D., Ph.D., about the best questions to ask to ensure that you feel comfortable with your treatment plan. What type of stem cell transplant are you recommending for me? There are several types of stem cell transplants, and the type you receive will help determine what’s needed from you prior to the transfusion as well as what to expect with your recovery. All stem cell transplants fall into two categories: autologous stem cell transplants, which use the patient’s own cells, and allogenic stem cell transplants, which use cells from a donor. How will you find a donor for me? We look through your family first: siblings, parents and children. Come prepared to discuss their medical histories. Mention things like cancer, heart problems, heavy smoking — anything that’s an alternative lifestyle. If a related donor isn’t a possibility, there are other options, such as an umbilical cord blood transplant or finding an unrelated donor through Be The Match®, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program®. Will I need other types of treatment? A stem cell transplant is part of a treatment plan. Before the transplant, you’ll receive chemotherapy to kill the...