Potential Side Effects From Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Transplants

The early side effects of transplants are mostly from the high-dose chemotherapy you get before the transplant, not from the transplant itself. These should go away as you recover from the transplant. These are some of the most common side effects. They vary based on whether the transplanted cells came from you or from a donor. Ask your doctor which side effects you are most likely to have.

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest pain or tightness

  • Coughing

  • Fever or chills

  • Hair loss

  • Nausea

  • Strange taste in your mouth (from the preservative used to freeze stem cells)

  • Vomiting

  • Weakness

Your doctor may also do blood tests during your treatment to check for low-blood-cell counts. And he or she will also check your blood pressure to make sure it is not low.

Side effects may be long-lasting or appear years later. These are possible long-term side effects.

  • Shortness of breath, often caused by radiation damage to the lungs

  • Bone damage, called aseptic necrosis, due to lack of blood supply

  • Another form of cancer

  • Severe skin rashes with itching, severe diarrhea, fatigue, and muscle aches. These symptoms may indicate graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), a condition that occurs if the immune system cells in the donor’s stem cells attack your skin, liver, gastrointestinal tract, mouth, or other organs.

  • Lack of menstrual periods, which may indicate ovary damage and cause infertility

  • Vision problems caused by damage to the lens of the eye

  • Weight gain, which may be a sign of thyroid gland damage

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