Transplant gives patients a second chance at life
Bone marrow donation procedures are generally very safe and have few reported complications, said Dr Yvonne Loh, a specialist in haematology and consultant at Raffles Cancer Centre.
A bone marrow transplant replaces diseased bone marrow with a healthy one from a donor and introduces a new immune system into the recipient.
Dr Loh said there are two methods of transplant - traditional bone marrow donation where bone marrow is extracted from the pelvic bone through a short procedure, and peripheral blood stem cell donation where bone marrow cells are collected through a blood-donation like procedure.
Risks for the first method include infections or bleeding from the puncture site, but these are rare, and side effects of the second method include bone aches.
"However (for both procedures), all that is donated grows back within weeks so there is no permanent loss of cells," she said.
Bone marrow transplants give patients a chance of a cure and Dr Loh hopes more Singaporeans will join the pool of potential donors in the Bone Marrow Donor Programme.
While the transplant involves potential risks for patients as their immunity is severely weakened to allow the donor's immune system to settle into their bodies, many of them are able to lead normal lives after the transplant and the initial recovery period.
Dr Loh said: "There are thus many bone marrow transplant survivors walking in our midst, living normal lives and many looking perfectly normal with normal life spans.
"It is estimated that bone marrow transplants can cure up to 80 per cent of acute leukaemia patients, many of whom would otherwise have lost their lives to this deadly disease within six months of diagnosis."THEN: When he was battling leukaemia, Daniel raised funds for the Bone Marrow Donor Programme by selling handmade friendship bands. TNP FILE PHOTO