GVHD happens when the cells from your donor (the graft) see your body’s cells (the host) as different and attack them. There are medicines to help lower your risk of getting GVHD. But even with medicine, some people still get GVHD.
GVHD can range from mild to severe. Many patients will have some symptoms of GVHD after transplant.
Having some GVHD is not always bad. If your transplant was for a blood cancer, your doctor may see mild GVHD as a good thing. It’s a sign that the new cells are working to destroy any cancer cells that are still in your body. Patients who have some GVHD may have a lower risk of the cancer returning after transplant.
There are 2 types of GVHD:
- Acute GVHD: Usually happens in the early weeks and months after transplant. Some transplant recipients don’t have any acute GVHD. If you have any symptoms of GVHD, tell your transplant doctor right away.
- Chronic GVHD: Usually develops 3-6 months after transplant, but signs can appear earlier or later. You are more likely to develop chronic GVHD if you’ve had acute GVHD. Because chronic GVHD can develop after you’ve left the hospital, it’s important that you and your caregiver watch for the signs and symptoms of chronic GVHD.