Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) is a novel method through which cancer patients can get another chance at fighting the disease. Over the years though scientific research and advancements, many changes have been introduced that have helped make the process simpler and successful. Paras Cancer Centre is the only centre in Bihar to provide comprehensive cancer care facilities – medical oncology, radiation therapy, surgical oncology and PET CT or nuclear medicine. In an interview with Dr. Avinash Kumar Singh, Consultant Hemato-Oncology, Bihar’s 1st Hematologist, he highlights how a bone marrow donation can make a difference to a cancer patient. He also shares the common myths that are associated with bone marrow donation.
Q1. How can bone marrow transplant help a cancer patient?
Even in modern day, Cancer Chemotherapy has its limitations. There is high risk of relapse when patients are treated only with Chemotherapy. In Haematological malignancies like Acute Leukemia, Lymphoma, multiple Myeloma, Stem cell transplantation provides an opportunity to give very high dose of Chemotherapy, as well as the donor cells fight with residual Cancer cells and reduces the relapse risk to a significant level. In conditions like Thalassemia, Aplastic Anemia, Stem cell transplantation helps in changing the diseased Marrow to a healthy one from donor. In most of the haematological diseases Stem cell transplantation has potential of cure and in some diseases can provide good control.
Q2. What are the myths associated with bone marrow donation?
First, we need to understand that Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) is one of the best treatment options for blood cancer. A small donation from a healthy person can change the life of a cancer patient. Despite all prevailing myths, it is important that each one of us considers the option as viable and should support the same. The common myths are:
- Bone marrow donation is painful :
This is not correct. Pain is a factor that differs from person to person. Today the bone marrow cells can also be obtained through blood donation with the use of aphaeresis technology. Only in the case when the patient has to be donated a piece of the bone marrow a needle is inserted in the lumbar area. Such donations might cause little discomfort, however the same is nothing as compared to the pain the cancer patient is going through.
- Bone marrow donation can affect the donor on long term basis:
A bone marrow donation has no effect on the donor on long term basis. The donation causes no long term harm. In fact the bone marrow replenishes to the original within few weeks of the donation. Also the donor may feel temporary discomfort due to the anaesthesia and drugs given for the donation. Donors are discharged within few hours post the donation.
- Bone marrow is collected from the spine :
In 75% of the cases the bone marrow cells are collected through the blood stream. This process is similar to blood donation. However only in select cases the bone marrow has to be collected from the back of the pelvic bone with the help of a special syringe.
- Bone marrow donation is costly:
The donation of the bone marrow has no cost associated with the same. The hospital charges the cancer patient for the transplant.
- Bone marrow donation takes time:
The donation only takes 2-3 hours. This includes the donation time, the donor can resume his/her normal life again even on the same day.
It is important that the cancer patient and his/her family members understand the process of Bone Marrow Transplant in detail from the treating doctor.