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Multiple Myeloma

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At this time, multiple myeloma is not considered curable, although current treatments may produce a complete remission (disappearance but not cure of the disease) in some people. The goals of treatment are to relieve pain and other symptoms, to decrease the amount of cancer present or eliminate it, to slow the progress of the disease, and/or to detect and minimize complications as they occur.

People who do not have significant symptoms are monitored but may not receive any treatment. Healthcare practitioners generally recommend that people with multiple myeloma stay as active as possible to help preserve the calcium in their bones and drink plenty of fluids to help with kidney function.

Complications such as infections, anemia, and bleeding should be promptly addressed with measures such as antibiotics and, when necessary, blood transfusions. Other supportive treatments may include injections of immunoglobulins to help fight infections and plasmapheresis to remove excess M protein from the blood. Plasmapheresis helps reduce the thickness (viscosity) of the blood.

If treatment is indicated, a combination of the following may be used:

  • Bisphosphonates—drugs that slow the weakening of bones
  • Chemotherapy—drugs used to control or destroy cancerous plasma cells
  • Targeted therapy—drugs that target the specific cancer's cells, genes or proteins
  • Radiation therapy—may be used to treat areas of bone that has not responded to chemotherapy
  • Stem cell transplantation—this procedure involves killing cells within the bone marrow, including the myeloma cells, and then giving the patient healthy stem cells

For additional details about treatment, see the National Cancer Institute's webpage on Treatment Options for Plasma Cell Neoplasms.

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