Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells which, so far, is still incurable. These plasma cells (or white blood cells) are responsible for producing important antibodies in your system, and this disruption can lead to immunodeficiency. Without a cure, most modern treatments are focused on containment and suppression of the disease, but as we continue to develop better supportive care and medications, the survival rate is beginning to go up.
What Are the Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma?
A lot of the choices for multiple myeloma treatment will depend on the current condition of the patient and how the symptoms are developing. Recognizing the symptoms of multiple myeloma can be difficult, though, because most of the signs can also be attributed to other problems. The only way to be sure is to run a specific blood test to see what is going on.
Some of the most common symptoms, though, can include bone pain, infections, anemia, renal failure, and a number of neurological signs. Each of these symptoms can cause significant problems for the patient, and each one can be treated individually, but if the tests show that multiple myeloma is the root cause of the problems, some other specific treatment methods will be used.
Options for Treatment
If a patient has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma but has yet to really show any of the symptoms, he or she may be advised to wait before starting the treatments (this is sometimes referred to as smoldering or indolent myeloma). Once symptoms start to develop, though, the patient will have a number of options. However, since they do not, as yet, offer a cure, most patients will usually have to go through repeated regiments of all the treatments.
According to the Nebraska Medical Center, the four basic treatments include chemotherapy, immune modulating treatments, corticosteroids, and stem cell or bone marrow transplantation. Â Some medications are also used such as bisphosphonates to reduce pain and prevent fractures. The initial treatment will depend on several factors, including the age of the patient, the progression of the disease, and any other serious illnesses that may be present.
If the patient is under 65 years old, the usual treatment will include high doses of chemotherapy and stem cell transplants. Often, though, the regimen will include a combination of treatments to ensure that the patient has the best chances of survival.
It is important to understand that although we have not yet developed a cure for multiple myeloma, the technology and medication we use to fight it is growing very rapidly. Stem cell transplantations, for example, will not cure the disease, but they have been shown to significantly prolong the life of some patients. Chemotherapy has been used for years to treat patients, but now we can combine chemotherapy with immune modulating to produce even better results.
The key to multiple myeloma treatment is to speak to a doctor as soon as possible and follow the treatment prescriptions exactly. It is critical that your symptoms get diagnosed properly and that you start receiving the right treatment at the right time.