Each year, the month of March is recognized as Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month. If you’ve been diagnosed with the disease, there are often many questions that come to mind along your journey. There could also be some questions you don’t think to ask. Here are some facts about the disease, important things to consider when gathering information from your doctor, and what kinds of questions to keep in mind.
Multiple Myeloma is the second most common blood cancer, after non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and begins when a plasma cell becomes abnormal. The abnormal cells repeatedly make copies of themselves. In time, these multiplied cells collect in bones, damaging the solid parts of the bones. When this happens in more than one bone, it is called “multiple myeloma.” The next step after diagnosis will be to review your treatment options with your doctor. These could include watchful waiting, induction therapy, stem cell transplant, or a combination.
Watchful waiting involves careful monitoring of any symptoms that may appear, regular check ups (every three months), and treatment if symptoms do reappear. Induction therapy is the use of drugs to help treat myeloma. They could include chemotherapy, targeted therapy, steroids, or different combinations of drugs. The induction of these types of drugs happen at the hospital, in your doctor’s office, or at home, depending on a number of circumstances. Stem cell transplant allows you to be treated with high doses of drugs, that destroy both myeloma cells and normal blood cells in the bone marrow. After the high-dose treatment is completed, healthy stem cells are infused through a vein (almost like a blood transfusion). The stem cells may come from you or someone who donates their healthy stem cells to you, like a family member or other matching donor.
Your doctor will provide more details about the various treatment options available for multiple myeloma. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, contact your doctor and they will help you form a plan for next steps and help guide you through your treatment.