Making the Decision to Have a Stem Cell Transplant for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

You should know that stem cell transplants are somewhat controversial. Your doctor may suggest one in these cases.

  • You do not respond to other therapies. Or it takes several courses of chemotherapy to bring about a remission.

  • You respond to initial therapy, but you have one or more of these factors that put you at higher risk for relapse: certain chromosome changes, very high white-blood-cell count, AML that developed from a myelodysplastic syndrome or after treatment from another cancer, or leukemia cells in your central nervous system.

  • You have a donor available whose tissue type matches yours, especially if the person is a sibling.

  • You don't have a matched stem cell donor. But you have enough leukemia-free bone marrow cells to be collected for the transplant.

  • You're young enough to withstand the side effects of a stem cell transplant.

  • You've discussed the risks and potential side effects with your doctor and feel you are willing to proceed.

Stem cell transplants are complex procedures. They require the services of specialized doctors. If you decide to have one, be sure you go to a hospital that specializes in stem cell transplants. These are hospitals accredited by The Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT). The procedure is also expensive (about $100,000), and not all insurance companies cover the cost.

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