For the most part, testicular cancers respond well to chemotherapy (chemo), but not all cancers are cured. Even though higher doses of chemo drugs might work better, giving them could damage the bone marrow, which is where new blood cells are made. This could lead to life-threatening infections, bleeding, and other problems because of low blood cell counts.
A stem cell transplant lets doctors use higher doses of chemo. In this treatment, blood-forming cells called stem cells are taken out of the blood using a special machine. (In the past the bone marrow was used, but this is done less often now.) These stem cells are frozen and saved while the patient gets high-dose chemo. After treatment, the frozen stem cells are given back to the patient much like a blood transfusion. This is called a transplant, but it does not involve surgery – the cells are put into a vein.
Today transplant is mostly used for testicular cancer that has come back after regular chemo. Studies are also looking to see if stem cell transplant may be useful as part of the first treatment for some people with advanced cancers.
A stem cell transplant is a complex and intense treatment. Be sure you understand the possible benefits and risks. If your doctors think you might be helped by a transplant, it should be done at a hospital where the staff has a lot of experience doing stem cell transplants.
Stem cell transplants can cost a lot and often mean a long hospital stay. Before you decide on a transplant, it is important to find out what your health insurance will cover to get an idea of what you might have to pay.
To learn more about stem cell transplants see Stem Cell Transplant (Peripheral Blood, Bone Marrow, and Cord Blood Transplants).
Last Revised: 02/12/2016