10 Tips for Managing Multiple Myeloma

  • Senior Couple Hiking
    Living to Your Fullest With Multiple Myeloma
    If you or someone close to you is living with multiple myeloma, you may already know about the different stages of disease and phases of treatment. It can range from ‘watchful waiting,’ to intense treatment, to disease remission. Managing the emotional and physical ups and downs of cancer can be overwhelming. Healthy choices, symptom management, and avoiding infections are just three of the many ways you can take control of your body and live life to the fullest when you have multiple myeloma.  

  • Three senior black women exercising together
    1. Make healthy choices.
    One of the most important things to do when you have multiple myeloma is make healthy choices. This is true for both active, symptomatic myeloma and early, or smoldering myeloma. General healthy habits include eating a balanced diet, staying physically active, cutting down on alcohol, and stopping tobacco use. Stress management and adequate sleep are also important for a healthy lifestyle. Talk with your doctor about ways to stay active and protect your bones, which can weaken from multiple myeloma.

  • Senior woman holding a bottle of pills
    2. Manage bone pain.
    Bone pain is one of the most common symptoms of multiple myeloma. Managing this pain can improve your quality of life. Talk with your doctor about your pain and explore treatment options. Often, treating weakened bones with drugs to strengthen them will help relieve the pain. Other options include pain medicines and radiation therapy to shrink bone tumors. Alternative therapies, such as massage, acupuncture, and visualization may also work for some people. Do not use over-the-counter pain relievers without asking your doctor first. They can interfere with your treatment.

  • Elderly Womans Hands
    3. Be aware of unusual bleeding.
    Low platelet counts can be due to myeloma itself or the drugs that treat it. Either way, your doctor will monitor your platelet levels. But you also need to be vigilant and be on the lookout for symptoms that your platelets aren’t working to clot your blood properly. Tell your doctor about any easy or large bruising or unusual bleeding. This includes nosebleeds, bleeding gums, blood in the urine or stool, cuts that won’t clot, or a rash of black or blue spots. Your doctor can treat problematic bleeding with a platelet transfusion.

  • Kitchen faucet
    4. Take steps to avoid infections.
    Like platelets, white blood cell levels can be low in myeloma or with its treatment. This compromises your immune system and makes you more susceptible to infections. Do your best to avoid exposing yourself to germs. You can do this by washing your hands frequently, avoid touching your eyes and nose, and staying away from crowds and others who are sick. Contact your doctor right away if you have flu-like symptoms, cough, sore throat, or a fever. Also report any pain or burning with urination or red, swollen, warm, or weeping skin or cut.

  • Senior woman in hospital bed
    5. Do not ignore fatigue.
    Most people with myeloma will experience fatigue. There can be multiple causes, including various disease effects and treatment side effects. A low red blood cell count, or anemia, is one of the main reasons. Your doctor may be able to treat this with medicines. When fatigue is a side effect, lifestyle changes may help. This includes light exercise, eating right, getting enough rest, and adjusting your work and activities. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have shortness of breath, dizziness, or heart palpitations along with fatigue. These can be signs of severe anemia, which may require a blood transfusion.

  • Senior woman drinking water
    6. Know other symptoms to report.
    Depending on the stage and your blood tests, you may need to keep an eye out for other symptoms. They can range from increased thirst and urination to confusion and stroke-like symptoms. Talk with your doctor to find out what your test results could mean as far as symptoms. Ask your doctor if you can record the conversation or take notes for future reference. Having a trusted friend or family member present can also help.

  • Chemo patient
    7. Learn how to cope with chemotherapy side effects.
    Chemotherapy—or chemo—is a main treatment in the management of multiple myeloma. Side effects are common with chemo, but everyone reacts differently. Your overall health and the specific drugs and doses can make a difference. Before you start chemo, talk with your doctor and find out what you can expect. There are strategies for preventing side effects and relieving them when they occur. Knowing there is a plan ahead of time can ease some fears.

  • Senior couple
    8. Connect with others.
    Cancer support groups offer ways to connect with others who have cancer. They are supportive places to express your feelings, hopes and fears with people who are in the same situation. You can find support groups specific for multiple myeloma to meet others who understand your journey. If this doesn’t sound appealing, find other ways to stay connected socially with others. Hobbies are great ways to do this. Staying social can help lower stress, prevent loneliness, and keep a positive outlook.

  • Medical Records in Hospital Archives
    9. Keep your own records.
    You can avoid future stress by keeping a copy of all your personal health information. You can do this electronically or on paper. Ask your doctor and care facilities for copies of test results, appointment summaries, pathology reports, and treatment details. Many healthcare systems have patient portals where you can find and print this information for yourself. Also, be sure to call your insurance company to make sure you are following the coverage process. Keep explanation of benefits and other insurance communication with your records.

  • son consoling emotional elderly father
    10. Get help if you need it.
    Dealing with cancer can lead to emotional and financial difficulties. Sometimes, the stress and emotions can even cause depression. Your cancer care team has resources to help you. Cancer counseling offers people a way to work through their feelings and emotions about having cancer, including multiple myeloma life expectancy. There are different levels of counseling, so work with your team to find the right fit. Your team can also help with financial issues. Don’t risk your health over unplanned or high expenses. Your myeloma treatment team has dedicated members who can help you navigate insurance coverage and financial resources to assist you.

10 Tips for Managing Multiple Myeloma

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 

  1. Cancer Support Groups. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/coping/adjusting-to-cancer/support-groups

  2. Common Side Effects of Multiple Myeloma Treatments: Tips for Management. Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. https://www.themmrf.org/assets/living-with-multiple-myeloma/brochure/tips-brochure.pdf

  3. Counseling. American Society of Clinical Oncology. http://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/finding-support-and-information/counseling

  4. Feelings and Cancer. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/coping/feelings

  5. How Does Having Multiple Myeloma Affect Your Emotional Health? American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/multiple-myeloma/after-treatment/emotional-health.html

  6. Lifestyle Changes After Having Multiple Myeloma. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/multiple-myeloma/after-treatment/lifestyle-changes.html

  7. Multiple Myeloma. American Society of Clinical Oncology. https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/multiple-myeloma/introduction

  8. Multiple Myeloma: Coping with Treatment. American Society of Clinical Oncology. https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/multiple-myeloma/coping-with-treatment

  9. Multiple Myeloma: Follow-Up Care. American Society of Clinical Oncology. https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/multiple-myeloma/follow-care

  10. Pain Management for Multiple Myeloma. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/types/multiple-myeloma/approach/pain-management

  11. Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/multiple-myeloma/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-symptoms.html

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Mar 5
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