Why Long-Term Follow-Up Matters

Why Long-Term Follow-Up Matters

A bone marrow transplant holds the possibility of curing certain diseases or extending life for many people who go through this procedure. This possibility comes at a certain price. A transplant and related treatments are intensive. They can impact many systems of your body—in ways that may clear up after a matter of weeks or months and in ways that may last for many years or even the rest of your life.

The Long-Term Follow-Up (LTFU) Program at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) is designed to help you and your doctor to prevent, manage, and treat these potential late effects and consider possible alternatives if your original disease recurs despite the transplant.

After you have a transplant, we can help with the following issues through our LTFU Program.

  • Regimen-related complications
  • Transplant complications
  • Graft-versus-host disease

Regimen-Related Complications

The conditioning regimen given before the transplant, as well as the transplant process itself, affects more than just the cancer cells in your body. Any of these sites can be affected:

  • Immune system (risk for infection)
  • Skin
  • Eyes
  • Mouth
  • Gastrointestinal tract (gut)
  • Kidneys
  • Lungs
  • Endocrine system, including gonads (sex glands) and thyroid
  • Metabolism (your body’s use of energy)
  • Bones and muscles
  • Nervous system
  • Emotional health

Transplant Complications

Transplant complications can affect the quality of your life, including school, work, and family life. These changes can include:

  • Lasting fatigue
  • Sexuality issues, such as impotence in men, pain with intercourse in women, and low libido in both sexes
  • Trouble concentrating and remembering

You may also have higher risk of getting cancer in the future. This risk applies whether you had your transplant to treat cancer or some other disease. Risk increases with time. The most common cancers in people who have had a transplant are skin cancer, oral cancers, and breast cancer.

Some of these late complications and risks can be reduced or appropriately managed. The LTFU Program has general guidelines to minimize the risk and severity of transplant complications.

Graft-Versus-Host Disease

Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) occurs only in people who receive cells from a donor (allogeneic transplant) rather than have a transplant of their own cells (autologous transplant). It happens when the donor cells attack your tissues, and it can affect many different parts of your body, causing a range of symptoms. There are acute and chronic forms. About 40 to 60 percent of allogeneic transplant recipients get GVHD. SCCA has a team of world experts in the management of this condition. Learn more about GVHD.

Cancer Recurrence

Although many patients are cured of cancer after a transplant, cancer may recur. Your oncologist will schedule regular check-ups to look for early signs of cancer. Our LTFU consultation service is available to discuss available options for treating a recurrence. Disease restaging is recommended during the LTFU comprehensive annual check-ups for at least the first five years after transplant.