From May 6th through May 12th each year, National Nurses Week is celebrated, and this year’s theme is “Nurses: Advocating, Leading, Caring.” Just about everyone knows that nurses play a critical role in treating and comforting patients, but some people may not realize that often nurses are finding and helping develop resources for patients.
This is why Ali Hoffman, Patient Services Coordinator at The Bone Marrow Foundation, staffed a booth at the 37th Annual Oncology Nursing Society Congress. For three days, she met and exchanged knowledge with oncology nurses from across the country (and even some international nurses). Ali provided information about the Foundation’s financial assistance programs and publications. She also asked nurse for their feedback on existing patient resources so that their day-to-day, hands on knowledge could be used to improve programs and better assist patients. The most popular topic of discussion was the Foundation’s medical and educational handbooks. Many nurses spoke about the difficulty they have experienced finding high-quality educational materials and assistance programs for patients who are facing bone marrow, stem cell, and cord blood transplants.
From the diagnosis and through the post-transplant follow-up, nurses play a huge role in helping a patient through the transplant process and on the road to recovery. They are an incredible resource in their own right, and with their help, we hope to improve the support offered to patients.
The basic idea behind bone marrow/stem cell transplantation (BMT/SCT) is to allow high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to kill rapidly dividing cells in the body to make room for new, healthy cells. Cancer cells, like other cells in the body, divide rapidly. Though these treatments are among the most effective weapons against many forms of cancer, they do not have precise aim and they cannot target only diseased cells. As a result, many normal rapidly dividing cells, including stem cells, are also destroyed during the treatment. Therefore, “rescue” with transplanted bone marrow or stem cells enables the patient to produce new blood cells to replace those destroyed during treatment.
There are two main types of bone marrow or stem cell transplants: allogeneic (a donor supplies the marrow or stem cells) and autologous (the patient’s own bone marrow or stem cells are used). A syngeneic transplant is a type of allogeneic transplant of marrow or stem cells from an identical twin. Several factors determine what type of BMT/SCT a patient should have, including the type of disease, age, overall health, and availability of a donor.
Click here to learn how you can receive a copy of The Bone Marrow Foundation’s medical and educational handbooks for allogeneic and autologous transplantation. Both books are also available in Spanish.