Frequently Asked Questions About Myeloma

What is your treatment approach, and what are the survival rates with your treatment?

We believe treating multiple myeloma aggressively on the front end is the key to long periods of remission, a longer life, and a better quality of life for multiple myeloma patients.

If you hit the myeloma cells hard at the beginning when they have not been exposed to treatment before, you will catch them off guard. Whereas, if you take the approach of starting off with less aggressive treatment and only moving to more aggressive treatment if a patient relapses, the myeloma cells have in the meantime grown smarter. The myeloma cells sense that you are trying to get rid of them, and they have time to grow resistant to treatment. Treatment will therefore ultimately be less effective.

We typically treat multiple myeloma with a regimen involving tandem (two) autologous stem cell transplants and maintenance therapy thereafter. This treatment method has been proven to result in median survival rates of 10+ years. No other treatment method for multiple myeloma has proven more effective in research studies.

Why don't you recommend allogeneic transplants for myeloma patients?

We think an allogeneic stem cell transplant—a transplant using stem cells from a donor—is far too risky. One in four people will die from complications associated with the procedure. In contrast, when patients have an autologous stem cell transplant—a transplant using their own stem cells—the complication rate is only two to five percent.

Studies have shown that patients do not live longer with an allogeneic transplant. Therefore, we prefer autologous transplants because they are safer and have been proven just as effective.

What kinds of support services and resources are offered to your patients?

Treatment for multiple myeloma is about much more than chemotherapy and stem cells transplants. We offer a variety of complementary therapies and services that focus on overall physical and emotional well-being.

Our Department of Social Service provides services to patients and their families that enable them to make the best use of health care resources. The department works to reduce social, financial, and medical barriers in order to optimize patient and family functioning.

We also provide spiritual services if this is something you would like, since we know your health and well-being can have a spiritual component. Our chaplains recognize the importance of faith in facing a health crisis, and they offer spiritual support, care, and counsel to assist you with spiritual issues related to your illness.

Is melanoma the same as myeloma? The two words seem so similar.

No, melanoma and myeloma are two completely different cancers. Melanoma is a skin cancer and myeloma is a blood cancer.

How common is multiple myeloma?

The International Myeloma Foundation reports that each year there are approximately 19,900 new cases of myeloma in the United States. This represents approximately 10% of all blood cancers, and only 1% of all types of cancer

Is myeloma hereditary?

Research into whether or not multiple myeloma runs in families strongly suggests that hereditary forms do exist.

I really don’t want to go through chemotherapy or a stem cell transplant. Any advice?

It's important to remember that while you may not feel up to chemotherapy or a stem cell transplant, getting treatment is key to getting rid of the symptoms of multiple myeloma, like lytic lesions and a weakened immune system. Treatment is what will make you ultimately feel better.

The key to good treatment is getting treatment on the front end that is effective so that you will stay in remission. It may be no fun, but it is worth it eventually so you can have a good quality of life.

If you delay treatment, dangerous things could happen as a result of the myeloma. For example, you could go into renal failure or be hospitalized for a compression fracture. If you’re experiencing myeloma symptoms, it's time for treatment. We want you to have the very best chance at fighting this cancer and at a good life!

Should someone with myeloma be inactive on an ongoing basis to minimize the risk of breaking a bone?

It's actually quite important that someone with myeloma be as active as possible. Since myeloma affects the bones, exercise can prevent the loss of bone mass. It can also help with stability in walking and balance, which is good because people with myeloma can be more hurt compared to the average person if they fall because their bones are often more brittle.

During treatment, exercise can decrease the chance of cancer-related fatigue, help the body recover, keep muscles from losing strength, improve mood, and combat insomnia.

For all these reasons, we would encourage myeloma patients to exercise regularly if they are able to do so. To minimize the risk of bone fracture, patients should stick to low-impact exercises like swimming, walking, or cycling.