Chemotherapy for Stem Cell Transplant Patients
Patients that receive a stem cell transplant at Phoenix Children's Hospital sometimes require chemotherapy.
Most patients receive chemotherapy for 3–5 days before they are given their stem cell infusion.
What is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is a combination of medications used to treat cancer and other specific illnesses. It is also an important medication used in the stem cell transplant process.
Chemotherapy is usually given into the vein, but can also be given other ways. The chemotherapy given before stem cell transplant is known as the conditioning regimen.
A patient receives high dose chemotherapy before stem cell transplant for one or more of the following reasons:
- To wipe out any existing tumor cells (if the patient has had a malignancy or tumor)
- To wipe out existing bone marrow cells and make room for new, healthy cells.
- To wipe out immune system cells that might fight against the new bone marrow/stem cells.
Side Effects of Chemotherapy
Unfortunately, chemotherapy does not know the difference between cancer cells and healthy cells. Although the goal is to attack cancer cells, chemotherapy also attacks other cells in the body.
The rapidly dividing cells are the most effected (e.g., skin, mouth, stomach, hair) and are what cause the side effects of chemotherapy. Patients experience side effects differently and there are medications to help the side effects.
The most common side effects are:
- Decreased ability to fight infections (Immunosuppression)
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
- Nausea and vomiting
Although these are the most common side effects of chemotherapy, the patient may have other problems since the chemotherapy doses used in stem cell transplant are often much higher than other cancer therapy.
Please contact us if you have questions about chemotherapy or anything else related to the stem cell transplant process.