Multiple Myeloma

Treatment

The type of multiple myeloma treatment used depends on the extent of the cancer and the patient's symptoms. The doctor also considers the person's age and general health. The doctor may want to discuss the patient's case with other doctors who treat multiple myeloma. Also, the patient may want to talk with the doctor about taking part in a research study of new multiple myeloma treatment methods. Such studies, called clinical trials, are designed to improve the treatment of multiple myeloma.

Multiple Myeloma Treatment Options

Plasmacytoma and multiple myeloma are very hard to cure. Although patients who have a plasmacytoma may be free of symptoms for a long time after treatment, many eventually develop multiple myeloma. For those who have multiple myeloma, treatment can improve the quality of a patient's life by controlling the symptoms and complications of the disease. People who have multiple myeloma but do not have symptoms of the disease usually do not receive treatment. For these patients, the risks and side effects of treatment are likely to outweigh the possible benefits. However, these patients are watched closely, and they begin treatment when symptoms appear. Patients who need treatment for multiple myeloma usually receive chemotherapy and sometimes radiation therapy.

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to treat cancer. It is the main treatment for multiple myeloma. Doctors may prescribe two or more drugs that work together to kill myeloma cells. Many of these drugs are taken by mouth; others are injected into a blood vessel. Either way, the drugs travel through the bloodstream, reaching myeloma cells all over the body. For this reason, chemotherapy is called systemic therapy.

Anticancer drugs often are given in cycles--a treatment period followed by a rest period, then another treatment and rest period, and so on. Most patients take their chemotherapy at home, as outpatients at the hospital, or at the doctor's office. However, depending on their health and the drugs being given, patients may need to stay in the hospital while their multiple myeloma treatment is administered.

Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) uses high-energy rays to damage cancer cells and stop them from growing. In this form of treatment, a large machine aims the rays at a tumor and the area close to it. Treatment with radiation is local therapy; it affects only the cells in the treated area.

Radiation therapy is the main treatment for people who have a single plasmacytoma. They usually receive radiation therapy every weekday for 4 to 5 weeks in the outpatient department of a hospital or clinic. People who have multiple myeloma sometimes receive radiation therapy in addition to chemotherapy. The purpose of the radiation therapy is to help control the growth of tumors in the bones and relieve the pain that these tumors cause. Treatment usually lasts for 1 to 2 weeks.

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