5 Signs It's Time to Try a New Multiple Myeloma Treatment

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This year, over 32,000 people in the United States will receive a diagnosis of multiple myeloma. Your body makes many immune system cells in the bone marrow, which is located in the center of the bones in your body. If you have multiple myeloma, cancer cells build up inside the bone marrow, crowding out healthy immune system cells. This increases your likelihood of infection and may result in complications, such as broken bones or kidney problems.

If your doctor diagnoses multiple myeloma, you have several treatment options. But how do you know if your treatment is working? People living with multiple myeloma usually use a combination of treatments to manage the condition and prevent complications. Working together with your doctor is the best way to find effective treatment options that work best for you.

Trying a New Multiple Myeloma Treatment

Many people respond well to treatments for multiple myeloma. But how do you know when it’s time to try a new treatment? It may be time to try something new if you:

  1. Develop symptoms: Many people live with multiple myeloma for years without developing any symptoms of the disease. If you’ve received a diagnosis but don’t have any symptoms, your doctor may simply suggest active surveillance instead of more intensive treatments. During active surveillance, your doctor regularly monitors your health with frequent check-ups. However, if you develop symptoms, your doctor is likely to suggest starting other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy. Symptoms of multiple myeloma may include bone pain, fatigue, infections, nausea and constipation, weight loss, or excessive thirst. If you develop any symptoms, it’s important to let your doctor know as soon as possible.

  2. Experience complications: Even though treatments are effective against multiple myeloma, they may also cause complications, some of which may be serious. Certain drugs, such as bisphosphonates, are used to help strengthen bone and prevent bone pain. However, this type of drug may cause kidney problems, especially if used over a long period of time. Your doctor will regularly monitor your kidney function and overall health to determine whether any treatment is affecting your general health.

  3. Don’t get better: In some cases, standard treatments for multiple myeloma, such as chemotherapy, don’t work. If this occurs, your doctor will suggest other treatments, like radiation therapy, to get cancer cells under control. Your doctor may also suggest a change in treatments if you experience symptoms, such as pain, that don’t get better with other treatments.

  4. Progress to another stage: Doctors categorize multiple myeloma into stages, which indicate how severe the cancer is at the time. You may begin treatment at one stage and have the disease progress to another, more serious stage. When this occurs, your doctor will likely recommend another type of treatment to help stabilize your condition.

  5. Have a recurrence: Multiple myeloma and its associated symptoms can often be managed for years using certain treatments. However, some people experience a return of unpleasant symptoms, even years after beginning their initial treatment. Your doctor may suggest a new treatment to manage your symptoms while helping prevent the condition from worsening.

Even though there is no cure for multiple myeloma, it’s still possible to enjoy good quality-of-life with this type of cancer for many years. Working together with your doctor helps you determine which treatments are most effective and fit your lifestyle best. Your doctor can also help you decide whether it’s time to try a new multiple myeloma treatment, depending on your health.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Sep 20
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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