People who have had a stem cell transplant need to be examined regularly. If you had an allogeneic transplant, our team will closely watch you for signs of graft-versus-host disease. Whether you had an autologous or an allogeneic transplant, we will check to make sure that your immune system is recovering and that you have no complications arising from the high-dose chemotherapy and radiation therapy that you had before your transplant.
We will also look for signs that the cancer may have come back. If the cancer does return, we will change your treatment strategy.
Follow-Up Care After a Stem Cell Transplant
Your long-term follow-up care will be provided by a nurse practitioner who specializes in taking care of transplant survivors. The nurse practitioner will monitor you for signs that the cancer has come back. This person also will focus on identifying, preventing, and controlling any side effects you may have that are related to your transplant.
We are experts in addressing the potential long-term problems that people who have had bone marrow transplants face. These include heart problems, thyroid conditions, diabetes, problems with bone health, kidney problems, and liver disease.
A certain number of days after the transplant — the number depends on the type of transplant you had — you will have an appointment to talk about your current and anticipated health needs as you recover from the procedure. Later follow-up visits with a nurse practitioner will include the following:
- a review of your recent medical history and a physical exam
- tests to look for any cancer that has come back
- a test to identify the side effects of your cancer and its treatment and to help manage any side effects you may be experiencing
- screening referrals for other cancers
- referrals to specialists in nutrition, exercise, and integrative medicine
- a treatment summary and follow-up care plan
- a consultation with your Memorial Sloan Kettering doctor as needed
In addition to working closely with your treatment team, the nurse practitioner will provide a treatment summary and survivorship care plan to you, your primary care doctor, and other specialized medical providers. Your doctors can then incorporate this information into your overall medical plan.
You may experience a range of physical symptoms while recovering from your stem cell transplant. These can include fatigue and weakness, hair loss or other changes in appearance, and loss of muscle tone.
Emotional and Social Challenges
Our social workers counsel people on how to cope with the stresses of illness. We help our patients communicate with their family members about their concerns. While patients are in the hospital, our inpatient bone marrow transplant social worker provides counseling for individuals, families, and couples. There is also a weekly support group for caregivers.
We know that the period after a stem cell transplant can be a difficult and stressful time. To avoid infections, you need to stay away from crowds and from people who are sick. You may feel isolated. Your treatment-related concerns may affect your social and sexual relationships. Some people find it hard to get back to work, and they may not be fully aware of their employment and insurance rights.
During outpatient visits, a bone marrow transplant social worker can meet with you or your family members, or with everyone together in a family meeting. The outpatient social worker is also available after your regular follow-up visits are done.