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Treatments for Multiple Myeloma
While standard protocols have been established for the treatment of virtually all cancers, doctors will often modify them for their individual patients. These modifications are based on many factors including the patient’s age, general health, desired results, and the specific characteristics of his cancer.
At present there is no cure for multiple myeloma. Treatment aims to keep symptoms under control for as long as possible. If you are not having symptoms, the doctor will probably recommend holding off with treatment. Studies show no increase in survival rates with early treatment. Therapy typically begins when the disease progresses to the point that complications, such as fractures, are likely or you experience symptoms that decrease your ability to function or to enjoy life.
The main treatment option is chemotherapy. This is an appropriate treatment because multiple myeloma is a systemic disease, meaning that it affects the entire body. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment.
Doctors often recommend bone marrow transplantation for patients younger than age 65 and who meet other criteria for this treatment. Although transplants seem to increase survival for some patients, these treatments do not cure myeloma, and they have had limited success.
Treatment also focuses on managing complications. The links below cover each option:
• Chemotherapy • Radiation therapy • Other treatments • Treatment for complications • Lifestyle changes
Existing treatment protocols have been established and continue to be modified through clinical trials. These research studies are essential to determine whether new treatments are both safe and effective. Since highly effective treatments for many cancers remain unknown, numerous clinical trials are always underway around the world. You may wish to ask your doctor if you should consider participating in a clinical trial. You can find out about clinical trials at the government website ClinicalTrials.gov.
American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/home/index.asp .
Cancer Medicine . 5th ed. Hamilton, Ontario: BC Decker Inc; 2000.
National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov .
Rakel R, Bope E., ed. Conn's Current Therapy 2002 . 54th ed. St. Louis, MO: WB Saunders Company; 2002: 439-443.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
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