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Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplant Frequently Asked Questions
19. How long does recovery take?
Recovery from a bone marrow, peripheral blood, or cord blood transplant is highly variable and can take from several months to a year or more. As a general rule, autologous transplant recipients recover more quickly than allogeneic transplant recipients. By one year after transplant, many transplant survivors are able to take part in some of their usual activities, such as work or school. For others, it may take two or more years to recover their strength and energy. And there are also individuals who never fully regain their health and struggle with fatigue and other chronic health issues for years to come.
Many factors, such as the development of infections or graft versus host disease (GVHD), will impact the recovery period. In chronic GVHD, the new immune system can attack different parts of the body. Areas that are commonly affected include the skin, eyes, mouth, digestive tract, joints, lungs, and liver. In addition to damaging organs, GVHD and its treatment may also cause immunosuppression and fatigue and can make you more vulnerable to infection.
Your treatment team will monitor you closely, and you may be given antimicrobial medications to prevent the most common post-transplant infections. It is very important to have a comprehensive discussion with your doctor and other members of your health care team before the transplant and during your post transplant care. Dealing with infections, staying away from crowds, limitations on traveling, the importance of good hygiene, and the management of GVHD through immunosuppressive medication are all important topics to cover. The nbmtLINK offers a series of GVHD telephone/education support groups and helpful webcasts, including: "Understanding and Coping with Chronic Graft versus Host Disease," "Chronic Graft versus Host Disease in Adults," and "Graft versus Host Disease in Children and Adolescents" available at www.nbmtlink.org. Additionally, Be the Match offers guidelines for evaluation and management of GVHD and other late effects. (See Resource Listing)
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