Multiple Myeloma (cont.)
In this Article
- What is multiple myeloma?
- What are multiple myeloma causes and risk factors?
- What are multiple myeloma symptoms and signs?
- How is multiple myeloma diagnosed?
- What are multiple myeloma stages?
- What is the treatment for multiple myeloma?
- What are methods of treatment for multiple myeloma?
- What supportive care can patients with multiple myeloma require?
- What happens after treatment for multiple myeloma?
- What support is available for cancer patients?
- What other resources are available to multiple myeloma patients?
- Multiple Myeloma At A Glance
- Find a local Oncologist in your town
If the biopsy shows that you have multiple myeloma, your doctor needs to learn the extent (stage) of the disease to plan the best treatment. Staging may involve having more tests:
- Blood tests: For staging, the doctor considers the results of blood tests, including albumin and beta-2-microglobulin.
- CT scan: An x-ray machine linked to a computer takes a series of detailed pictures of your bones.
- MRI: A powerful magnet linked to a computer is used to make detailed pictures of your bones.
Doctors may describe multiple myeloma as smoldering, Stage I, Stage II, or Stage III. The stage takes into account whether the cancer is causing problems with your bones or kidneys. Smoldering multiple myeloma is early disease without any symptoms. For example, there is no bone damage. Early disease with symptoms (such as bone damage) is Stage I. Stage II or III is more advanced, and more myeloma cells are found in the body.
People with multiple myeloma have many treatment options. The options are watchful waiting, induction therapy, and stem cell transplant. Sometimes a combination of methods is used.
Radiation therapy is used sometimes to treat painful bone disease. It may be used alone or along with other therapies. See the Supportive Care section to learn about ways to relieve pain.
The choice of treatment depends mainly on how advanced the disease is and whether you have symptoms. If you have multiple myeloma without symptoms (smoldering myeloma), you may not need cancer treatment right away. The doctor monitors your health closely (watchful waiting) so that treatment can start when you begin to have symptoms.
If you have symptoms, you will likely get induction therapy. Sometimes a stem cell transplant is part of the treatment plan.
When treatment for myeloma is needed, it can often control the disease and its symptoms. People may receive therapy to help keep the cancer in remission, but myeloma can seldom be cured. Because standard treatment may not control myeloma, you may want to talk to your doctor about taking part in a clinical trial. Clinical trials are research studies of new treatment methods. See the Taking Part in Cancer Research section.
Your doctor can describe your treatment choices, the expected results, and the possible side effects. You and your doctor can work together to develop a treatment plan that meets your needs.
Your doctor may refer you to a specialist, or you may ask for a referral. Specialists who treat multiple myeloma include hematologists and medical oncologists. Your health care team may also include an oncology nurse and a registered dietitian.
Before treatment starts, ask your health care team to explain possible side effects and how treatment may change your normal activities. Because cancer treatments often damage healthy cells and tissues, side effects are common. Side effects may not be the same for each person, and they may change from one treatment session to the next.
You may want to ask your doctor these questions before you begin treatment:
People with smoldering myeloma or Stage I myeloma may be able to put off having cancer treatment. By delaying treatment, you can avoid the side effects of treatment until you have symptoms.
If you and your doctor agree that watchful waiting is a good idea, you will have regular checkups (such as every 3 months). You will receive treatment if symptoms occur.
Although watchful waiting avoids or delays the side effects of cancer treatment, this choice has risks. In some cases, it may reduce the chance to control myeloma before it gets worse.
You may decide against watchful waiting if you don't want to live with untreated myeloma. If you choose watchful waiting but grow concerned later, you should discuss your feelings with your doctor. Another approach is an option in most cases.
You may want to ask your doctor these questions before choosing watchful waiting:
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