What Possible Things Might Happen During a Stem Cell Transplant Procedure?
So what actually happens during a stem cell transplant or stem cell therapy? Well, the body is first “conditioned” to receive the stem cells better by running your body through a series of chemotherapy sessions.
What is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is just a treatment procedure wherein you’re given strong drugs that will help disrupt the cancer cells’ ability to proliferate in your body.
As you probably know by now, cancer cells actually divide indefinitely and they stick to the different parts of your body. In Chemotherapy, you’re just given drugs that will ensure that the process of indefinite cell division is disrupted.
Although the use of strong cancer-killing drugs is borne out of good intentions, the drugs that are used can actually kill all of the other cells in the body; particularly your bone marrow stem cells as well.
As you know, your bone marrow is responsible for creating the different blood cells that are present in your body. After chemotherapy, it is either severely weakened or its function is destroyed (although the latter only happens in a few cases, it is still a looming possibility).
How About Radiation Therapy?
In most cases, radiation therapy is used in conjunction with chemotherapy. The affected organ in your body is subjected to high-energy X-rays to finally kill cancer cells that are present in that area. This also prevents those cells to proliferate and divide.
In some instances, like Leukemia, for example, your entire body is exposed to radiation due to the fact that the cancer cells are probably spread all throughout your system. This process is also known as Total Body Irradiation.
Why Are These Procedures Needed?
Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy are both important because it “primes” the body to make it suitable for transplantation.
However, the actual explanation would be that the procedures are there to kill off existing cancer cells in the body.
You see, cancer cells are notorious for dividing at a much faster rate compared to other cells in the body. However, your blood cells also share this characteristic, which is why when you take cancer-killing drugs, your blood cells will be affected as well.
When done in conjunction with radiation therapy, the cancer cells will be eliminated and your immune system will go down along with it.
This is the main reason why after such procedures, the medical team that is assigned to you will do regular tests and checkups to see your blood count and other things in your body.
The Red and White Cells
The red and white blood cells are just two components that are important for your body to function. The red blood cells have a protein that is responsible for carrying the oxygen to your entire body. It also has the effect of releasing carbon dioxide from your body to be exhaled through your lungs.
The white blood cells are typically involved in warding off infections that are present in your body. They also fight off pathogens which are just the foreign matter that might pose a threat to your system.
The normal count for white blood cells should be anywhere between 4,000 to 10,000. For Red Blood cells, it is measured by a value known as Hemoglobin. Typical values for a normal person would be anywhere between 14-18.
There are also Platelets that are also produced by your bone marrow and they are typically responsible for blood clotting and to avoid you from bleeding to death if you get a cut. The platelet count for a normal person would be anywhere between 150,000-400,000.
If you undergo a stem cell transplant, this is due to the fact that your body, after receiving chemotherapy and radiation therapies, will have insufficient supplies of all of your blood cells.
The introduction of stem cells is just to trigger the production of blood cells again in your body and so that, given enough time, you will get back to normal.