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The Cleveland Clinic

Breast Cancer: Bone Marrow Transplantation

A bone marrow transplant may be used to treat patients with certain forms of cancer, such as leukemia, lymphoma, or breast cancer. The goal of such a transplant in women with breast cancer is to allow them to undergo high-dose chemotherapy -- which aggressively attacks the cancer cells, but also damages normal blood cells - and then replace the damaged cells with healthy ones.

What Is Bone Marrow?

Bone marrow is the spongy tissue found inside bone. The bone marrow in the breastbone, skull, hips, ribs, and spine contains stem cells that produce the body's blood cells. The three kinds of blood cells that the body needs to function -- oxygen-carrying red blood cells, infection-fighting white blood cells, and clot-forming platelets -- are all made in the bone marrow.

Who Is A Candidate For A Bone Marrow Transplant?

The decision to prescribe a bone marrow transplant is always made on an individual basis. Your doctor will consider your age, general physical condition, diagnosis, and stage of disease. Your doctor will also make sure you understand the potential benefits and risks of the transplant procedure.

Where Does The Transplanted Bone Marrow Come From?

Bone marrow given during a transplant either comes from you or from a donor whose bone marrow "matches" yours.

The matching process is called human leukocyte antigen testing (HLA testing). A series of blood tests evaluate the compatibility or closeness of tissue between the donor and recipient. These test results are used to help the tissue-typing lab match a bone marrow transplant donor to you.

What Happens Before The Transplant?

A number of tests are performed before the bone marrow transplant procedure to make sure you are physically able to undergo a transplant. These tests also help the transplant team identify and treat any potential problems before the transplant.

Your heart, lungs and kidney function will be tested. Your doctor may also order blood tests, a CAT scan, and a bone marrow biopsy. A complete dental examination is required before the procedure to minimize your risk of infection, and other precautions will be taken as necessary to minimize the risk of infection.

The tests required before the bone marrow transplant are usually done on an outpatient basis. Your transplant coordinator will help arrange these tests for you.


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