Bone Marrow Transplant and Palliative Care

What is Bone Marrow Transplant?

A Bone marrow transplant is a medical treatment. It is not a medical condition or disorder. Bone marrow transplants are typically used to treat serious blood conditions like leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma. Bone marrow transplants are also used to treat other kinds of aggressive medical disorders.

Understanding Palliative Care

Palliative (pronounced “pal-lee-uh-tiv”) care is specialized medical care for people with serious illness. The goal of palliative care is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. It does this by providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness or a serious medical treatment like bone marrow transplant.

Palliative care is provided by a team of palliative care specialists, including doctors, nurses and social workers. The team works together with your other doctors to provide an extra layer of support.

Palliative care is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness. It works hand-in-hand with curative treatment.

Bone Marrow Transplant Symptoms and Treatment – How Palliative Care Can Help

Bone marrow transplants generally begin with a high dose of chemotherapy, radiation or both. This treatment kills cancer cells. It also kills all remaining healthy bone marrow cells. The purpose of the bone marrow transplant is to replace all the destroyed cells with healthy cells.

Some people have few or mild side-effects from a bone marrow transplant. But others may experience a wide variety of physical symptoms. These can include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Pain
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

After a bone marrow transplant is completed, some people experience a condition called “Graft-versus-host Disease.” This is a serious condition that causes its own set of symptoms, which palliative care can also help.

It is never easy to go through the process of a bone marrow transplant. But palliative care is there to help you even before your bone marrow transplant process begins. Some palliative care treatments for transplant include medicines that relieve pain, help you sleep, manage shortness of breath and help you relax.

Palliative care also treats your emotions by teaching you coping skills and helping you manage your fear or anxiety. Palliative care is proven to make a big, positive difference in how you feel.

Learning that you need a bone marrow transplant can be very shocking. And adjusting to the idea of both the treatment and your underlying condition can also be very hard. This is true not only for you, but also for your family.

But palliative care specialists are experts in treating the symptoms of bone marrow transplant as well as the symptoms of your underlying condition. So your palliative care team can help support you and your family in many ways. They can help you adjust to your diagnosis. They can help you understand complex medical information. And they can help you match your treatment choices to your personal needs and goals.

It is important to remember that your palliative care team is 100 percent there for you. Because your palliative care team will be with you every step of the way, they will help you better cope with the very real challenges of having a bone marrow transplant.

How to Get Palliative Care

If you or a loved one needs to have a bone marrow transplant, ask your doctor for a referral to palliative care—the earlier the better. You can receive palliative care in the hospital, at an outpatient clinic and sometimes at home.

Although going through a bone marrow transplant is a difficult journey, palliative care can ease your burden and help you achieve the best possible quality of life. For more information, explore GetPalliativeCare.org. Take the quiz to find out if palliative care is right for you. And find providers in your area by visiting the Palliative Care Provider Directory.