There is no cure for multiple myeloma. There are, however, therapeutic approaches to improve your life. Even if you do not experience symptoms, it is important that you regularly visit your doctor in order to monitor the disease, and prevent complications.
If you have a symptomatic myeloma associated with high levels of M protein and calcium in your blood or your urine, and/or impaired renal function, your doctor will recommend treatments to control the disease. In general, your doctor will prescribe one or a combination of these therapies:
- stem cell transplant
Chemotherapy is the most common cancer treatment. It consists of using strong chemical substances to damage myeloma cells, preventing them from reproducing. Chemotherapy drugs work by attacking cells that multiply rapidly, the main characteristic of cancer cells. Unfortunately, these chemicals also damage normal cells that multiply rapidly and lead to side effects:
- hair loss
- fever or chills
- black, tarry stools
- joint pain
- lower back or side pain
- nausea and vomiting
- chest pain or tightness
- allergic reactions (rash, hives, etc.)
- difficulty breathing
- swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue
- irregular or absent menstrual periods
- blood in urine or stools.
Chemotherapy drugs can be administered orally or by intravenous injection. In myeloma treatment, chemotherapy drugs are recommended to be taken for several months. If the level of M proteins stabilizes, your doctor may decide to stop the chemotherapy. The drugs most often used in the treatment of multiple myeloma include:
- Melphalan (Alkeran)
- Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan)
- Vincristine (Oncovin)
- Doxorubicin (Adriamycin)
- Liposomal doxorubicin (Doxil)
In myeloma treatment, this method always involves a combination of high-dose chemotherapy with an infusion of healthy stem cells to replace damaged bone marrow. A stem cell transplant is recommended to help your body make enough healthy white blood cells, red blood cells or platelets, and reduce your risk of infections, anemia and bleeding. These stem cells can be originated from your body (autologous stem cell transplant) or that of a donor (allogeneic stem cell transplant).
Radiation Therapy (Radiotherapy)
Radiation therapy consists of using X-rays of high energy to destroy myeloma cells. Unlike chemotherapy, radiation therapy is local-regional therapy; it treats a specific part of your body, the region where the tumor has developed. Usually, the therapy must be performed once a day, four or five days a week for several weeks.
Immunotherapy (Biological Therapy)
Immunotherapy is a therapeutic method involves the use of medical substances in order to stimulate the immune system to attack the myeloma cells. Cancer immunotherapy includes many medications; however, in the treatment of multiple myeloma, the drug most often used is interferon. It works by slowing the growth of myeloma cells, and help your body produces enough healthy stem cells. Depending on the reaction of your body to the drug, it can prolong your life.
Other medications – Other drugs commonly used in the treatment of multiple myeloma includeBortezomib (Velcade), Thalidomide (Thalomid) and Lenalidomide (Revlimid).