There are several treatment options for multiple myeloma, and sometimes a combination of methods is used. Multiple myeloma can seldom be cured, but therapies may help keep the cancer in remission. If you are faced with a treatment decision, visit CSC's Making a Treatment Decision
page to learn more about communicating with your doctor and resources available to help you.
Patients have time for second opinions and to talk through all of their options with their doctors and develop a treatment plan that best fits their needs. The treatment plan varies on how advanced the disease is and whether the patient has symptoms.
Multiple Myeloma Treatment Options
Treatment options can include: watchful waiting, induction therapy, radiation therapy , bone marrow/stem cell transplant, and clinical trials.
People with Stage I or smoldering myeloma may not need treatment for the cancer right away and may be able to put off treatment, therefore avoiding side effects of treatment. These patients have regular checkups and can start treatment if symptoms occur.
Watchful waiting does have risks; in some cases, it can reduce the chance to control the disease before it worsens.
If the patient has symptoms, they will likely get induction therapy. Many types of drugs are used to treat multiple myeloma, and patients often receive a combination. Drugs can be given by mouth or intravenously (IV). Each treatment kills cancer cells differently, types of treatments included in induction therapy are:
- Chemotherapy - This kills fast-growing cells but can also harm normal cells that divide rapidly.
- Targeted Therapy - Drugs are used to block the growth of myeloma cells by blocking the action of abnormal protein that stimulates the growth of myeloma cells.
- Steroids - Some steroids can kill myeloma cells.
Used to relieve bone pain or shrink a bone tumor, often used in combination with other therapies.
Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplant
Many patients with multiple myeloma get a stem cell transplant. A transplant of blood-forming stem cells allows the patient to receive higher doses of radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or both.
The patient receives these healthy stem cells through a vein in their body. New blood cells develop from the transplanted stem cells. Some patients may have two or more transplants.
There are two ways to get stem cells for people with myeloma, from their own body or a donor. These two types of transplants are called:
- Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation - The patient’s own stem cells are removed before high-dose treatment, frozen and stored for later use. After the high-dose treatment, the stored stem cells are thawed and returned to the body.
- Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplantation - Healthy stem cells come from a donor. The donor may be a sibling, parent, or unrelated. Blood tests are used to make sure the donor’s cells match the patients.
At leading cancer centers, clinical trials
(research studies) enable patients to utilize new treatments for multiple myeloma, including recurrent disease. Some clinical trials test new ways to use drugs or techniques that are already approved. To find out more about clinical trials, speak to your doctor.
Check-ups After Multiple Myeloma Treatment
Patients need regular check-ups after treatment for multiple myeloma. The doctor will check for return of cancer. Even when the cancer seems to have been completely destroyed, the disease sometimes returns because undetected myeloma cells remained somewhere in the body after treatment. Also, check-ups help detect health problems that can result from cancer treatment.
Check-ups may include a careful physical exam, blood tests, x-rays, or bone marrow biopsy.