You or your referring physician may call Northwestern Memorial at (312) 926-5400 to learn about the Stem Cell Transplant Program and to answer questions to determine if you are a candidate for stem cell transplantation. Be prepared to answer questions about the following:
- Type and stage of your cancer
- Your current medical condition and history
- The name of the physician who referred you
- Your medical records
- Your insurance coverage
If you are considered a possible candidate, you will be scheduled for an in-person evaluation within 1 to 2 weeks of your first contact to determine if you could benefit from the procedure. Please bring medical records and a companion for support.
If you are not a candidate for transplant, our staff will discuss the reasons and will offer recommendations and possibly suggest more testing.
If you are accepted as a possible transplant patient, our staff will arrange pre-testing for you.
A series of medical tests will be performed to provide important information about your disease and the condition of key organ systems. Decisions about the most effective and appropriate protocols for you are based on this test information. Pretesting takes 1 to 2 days, although additional time may be needed depending on required tests and test outcomes.
- Blood tests: Testing for exposure to viruses and for liver, kidney and blood cell function
- MUGA scan: Measures heart function
- Pulmonary function test: Measures lung function
- Chest X-ray
- Dental exam
- PPD: Skin test for tuberculosis
- EKG: Testing the rate and rhythm of your heart
- Urinalysis: Checking for infection and pregnancy
- Psychosocial evaluation: Evaluating your emotional preparedness and availability of support systems
Possible additional tests
- CT scans
- Lumbar puncture
- Bone marrow biopsy and aspirate
Reinfusion is when the donated stem cells are transplanted into the patient. The procedure lasts 30 minutes to 3 hours, depending on the volume of cells. A companion may accompany the patient during infusion. Possible side effects include:
- Pink-tinged urine
- Allergic reaction (hives, itching, shortness of breath) to the preservative mixed with the stem cells
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Taste and smell of garlic
Engraftment is the process where transplanted stem cells migrate to the bone marrow cavities and begin to produce new white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. The process takes 1 to 3 weeks for white blood cells to produce and 10 days to 4 weeks for red blood cells and platelets to produce. During engraftment, the flowing treatments are performed:
- Medications: Growth factor medications may be given to help engraftment. Antibiotics are given to prevent infections.
- Transfusions: Since the body is not yet able to produce blood cells, transfusions of red blood cells and platelets will be given as needed.
- Nutrition: Adequate nutrition is important but may be difficult due to nausea and loss of appetite. Our nurses, dietitian and pharmacist collaborate in addressing nutritional needs.
- Monitoring: Because patients are vulnerable to side effects and infection during the waiting period, your status will be monitored frequently through measurement of blood levels, vital signs, weight and fluid status. Patient and staff will both be alert to early signs of complications.
- Activity: Staying active through walking in the halls or riding the stationary bike can help reduce fatigue, improve appetite and lower infection risks.
- Self-Care: Instruction about hygiene practices to lower the risk of infection will be provided. Hygiene practices include bathing daily, using only electric razors and using special toothbrushes and mouthwash.