Stem cell collection is the first step of the stem cell transplant process. In myeloma, patients typically use their own stem cells for transplant. This is called an autologous transplant, or "auto" transplant.
In order to obtain stem cells for your transplant, you will go through a stem cell collection, or "harvest" process.
While the largest number of blood stem cells is in your bone marrow, these cells can be pushed, or "mobilized" out of the bone marrow into your blood, where they can be more easily collected. Most transplants use stem cells collected from the blood.
Before the stem cells are collected, you will be given injections of drugs such as filgrastim (Neupogen®) or plerixifor (Mozobil®) over a four to five day period. Their job is to push the stem cells from the bone marrow into the bloodstream.
These drugs are typically well tolerated, but some patients can experience mild flu-like symptoms. Chemotherapy drugs may also be used to help "mobilize" the stem cells.
The collection is done in an outpatient clinic:
The procedure is painless. However, you may feel lightheaded, cold or numb around the lips. Some people feel cramping in their hands which is caused by the blood thinning agent used during the procedure. These symptoms cease when the procedure ends.
For me, the stem cell collection was one of the most annoying parts of the transplant process. I had a neck port installed for the collection and felt like Frankenstein, but maybe I felt that way because it was the first major procedure of my care for myeloma. It made having myeloma real.
The process is slightly uncomfortable but not painful and it's hopefully just a few days of preparation for your stem cell transplant.
When you're finished you'll have a nice set of stem cells that will be frozen in preparation for your transplant.
about the author
Myeloma survivor, patient advocate, wife, mom of 6. Believer that patients can help accelerate a cure by weighing in and participating in clinical research. Founder of Myeloma Crowd by HealthTree and the HealthTree Foundation.