Bone marrow or stem cell treatments are a
special form of chemotherapy in a way. What happens is we give a very strong chemotherapy,
sometimes with radiotherapy as well, and the aim is to mop up any bits of cancer cells
that might be around or to get rid completely of the bone marrow that’s been making your
blood in the first place. Then, when the chemotherapy and radiotherapy have slightly worn out of
your system, you pour in some new cells that can make more blood. That might be bone marrow
cells or stem cells. Actually it’s just like having a blood transfusion, and the special
cells in it make their way into your bone marrow and they set up home there, and then
start growing there and make other bits of blood. Because of the really strong nature
of the chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments, stem cell and bone marrow transplants do have
very extreme side effects, and we only offer them when we think the benefit will outweigh
the harms. If you need one of these things, and only a very small proportion of teenagers
and young adults with cancer will do, then you’ll be talked about it in detail by your
treating team and they’ll explain why they think it’s right for you, and how it might
be for you in your particular situation.

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