- What we’ll cover here
- What are stem cells and why are they transplanted?
- Why would someone need a stem cell transplant?
- Weigh the risks before transplant
- Types of stem cell transplants for treating cancer
- Sources of stem cells for transplant
- Donor matching for allogeneic transplant
- The transplant process
- Problems that may come up soon after transplant
- Transplant problems that may show up later
- Other transplant issues
- What questions should I ask my doctor before transplant?
- What’s it like to donate stem cells?
- To learn more
Other transplant issues
Cost of transplant
Stem cell transplants cost a lot. The total cost for the procedure varies, but it can easily reach $100,000 or more for an autologous transplant. Allogeneic transplants tend to cost even more, up to $200,000 or higher.
A transplant (or certain types of transplants) is still considered experimental for many types of cancer, especially many solid tumor cancers, so insurers might not cover the cost. No matter what illness you have, it’s important to find out what your insurer will cover before deciding on a transplant, including donor match testing, cell collection, drug treatments, hospital stay, and follow-up care. Go over the transplant plan with them to find out what’s covered. Ask if the doctors and transplant team you plan to use are in their network, and how reimbursement will work. Some larger insurance companies have transplant case managers. If not, you might ask to speak with a patient advocate. You can also talk with financial or insurance specialists at your doctor’s office, transplant center, and hospital about what expenses you are likely to have. This will help you get an idea of what you might have to pay.
Saving your newborn’s umbilical cord blood for later private use
Some parents choose to donate their infant’s cord blood to a public blood bank, so that it may be used by anyone who needs it. Other parents store their newborn’s cord blood in private cord blood banks just in case the child or a close relative needs it someday. Several private companies offer this service as a form of “biological insurance.”
The collection fee can be $1,500 to $2,400, with around another $150 per year to store the cord blood. You will want to check on costs because they will probably increase over time, and they may vary from one part of the country to another.
Parents may want to think about banking their child’s cord blood, especially in families that have a history of, or close relatives with, diseases that may benefit from stem cell transplant. But here are some things to think about:
- A single cord blood unit might not have enough stem cells for most adults, so personal cord blood use could be limited to childhood or early adolescence.
- Most medical specialists feel that the chance that the average child or close relative will be helped by storing his or her own cord blood is very low. Estimates have ranged from 1 out of 1,000 to 1 out of 200,000. This means that most privately collected cord blood will likely be wasted.
- Some diseases that are treatable by transplant require stem cells that come from another donor (allogeneic). Infusing autologous cord blood stem cells that contain the same defect would not cure the disease.
- The “shelf life” of cord blood is not known. Because cord blood storage is a recent development, scientists do not know whether blood taken at birth will be useful if a family member develops a disease treatable by stem cell transplant 50 years later. Some scientists suspect that advances in immunology and genetics will have substitutes for stored cord blood by that time.
If you would like to learn more about donating your newborn’s cord blood, see the section called What’s it like to donate stem cells? More information on private family cord blood banking can be found at the Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation. You can visit their website at www.parentsguidecordblood.org.
Last Medical Review: 10/02/2013
Last Revised: 10/02/2013