For normal life and growth, we need healthy blood cells and bone marrow. The blood forms from the soft tissue inside the bones. These soft tissue cells may turn into red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets.
Bone marrow transplant
When the bone marrow suffers damage due to disease, the treatment involves removing the diseased marrow and replacing it with healthy marrow. Before undertaking this surgery to replace the stem cells, they may give the patient chemotherapy (if the disease is cancer). The total cost of bone marrow transplant in India is between Rs 6-7 lakh, though private hospitals may charge anything as much as Rs 30-40 lakh. This is very cheap when you compare it to the cost of the same in the US which is $350,000 – $800,000.
Types of transplants
We have three types of bone marrow transplants. We choose the appropriate one depending on the situation.
- Autologous bone marrow transplant: This kind of transplant is known as a rescue transplant. They first remove the stem cells from your bone. Then, they give your chemotherapy treatment. After this, they reintroduce the stem cells into your body to begin the reproduction of new blood cells.
- Allogeneic bone marrow transplant: In this procedure, they take the stem cells from another person. However, the genes of this donor must match, at least partially, your own genes. Therefore, they take the stem cells from a brother or sister. They do the testing to make sure that the match is right. Sometimes, you can check other relatives or the children to check if the match is correct. You can check the national bone marrow registers to check for a match from someone you do not know.
- Umbilical cord blood transplant: in this type of allogeneic transplant, they remove the stem cells from the umbilical cord of a newborn baby. They then freeze the stem cells and use it when needed. Since the stem cells in the umbilical cord are immature, you do not have to match it perfectly. However, the number of blood cells is lesser and so blood counts will improve only after a long time.
Collecting the stem cells
One can collect the stem cells in two ways. One is the bone marrow harvest where they put the donor under general anesthesia. They take the bone marrow from the hip bones. They remove the needed amount which depends on the weight of the person who needs the transplant. The second process is leukapheresis. In this, they give the donor shots to move the stem cells into the blood stream. Then, they remove the blood through an IV line.
Medical treatment in India
Considering the low bone marrow transplant cost in India, many patients come here and get treated. This has given rise to India becoming a world leader in the medical treatment field. The growth of many new high-tech hospitals in India has led to the improvement of the support structure and the hospital infrastructure consisting of the pharmaceutical and nursing segments. This reduces the costs, increases the facilities, and facilitates optimum living conditions for the medical tourists.
Be sure to complete the full course of the treatment. Come to the hospital for a regular check-up after the transplant surgery. You may need to carry on taking medication for some time until you recover completely.