There are a number of current treatments available for use in the treatment of multiple myeloma. The treatments are meant to slow or halt the progression of the condition while providing relief from the symptoms of multiple myeloma. The method of treatment used will be dependent on the health of the individual, the age of the individual, the stage at which the condition is in when diagnosed, and how fast the condition is progressing. In some cases, multiple myeloma that is detected in the early stage of the condition may not have manifested any adverse symptoms or signs of the condition. Because the treatments typically used for multiple myeloma can be damaging to the body, some healthcare professionals recommend delaying treatment until the symptoms begin to interfere with the individual’s quality of life. There is no reliable cure for the condition and the average length of survival after diagnosis is around 3 years.
The most common method of treatment for multiple myeloma is chemotherapy. In chemotherapy, medications that can travel through the body and kill the cells affected by multiple myeloma are taken orally or by injection into the vein. These medications are unable to distinguish between healthy cells and abnormal cells, so they kill a large amount of healthy cells as well. Common medications used for chemotherapy treatment include dexamethasone, thalidomide, cyclophosphamide, vincristine, adriamycin, melphalan, and prednisone. These medications are typically used in combination which elevates the effectiveness of all medications administered. An individual undergoing chemotherapy for the treatment of multiple myeloma will require multiple rounds of treatment with a reasonable recovery period needed afterwards.
Other medications commonly used in the treatment of multiple myeloma include bisphosponates and erythropoietin. Bisphosponates are used to reduce the effects of the bone loss caused by multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma makes the bones porous and brittle, leaving them susceptible to fracture. By taking bisphosponates in addition to other treatments, the risk of bone fracture is reduced. Erythropoietin is used to reverse the effects of anemia on the body. Anemia occurs when the abnormal plasma cells in the blood begin to affect the levels of red blood cells. Without the proper number of healthy red blood cells in the body to carry oxygen to the different body systems, the body becomes oxygen deprived leading to anemia. Anemia can quickly become life threatening and must be monitored closely by a healthcare professional to avoid severe complications.
Stem cell transplantation is being investigated as a possible cure for multiple myeloma, but the risks associated with the treatment are too great for the treatment to be used widely. Complications of stem cell transplantation make nearly 10% of all attempted transplantations fatal to the patient. This treatment may only be used for individuals that are young, healthy, and able to withstand the trauma of the therapy. The recovery time after treatment is lengthy and the patient must be monitored carefully for any signs of complications. By using proper treatment methods and careful monitoring of the symptoms, multiple myeloma can be managed effectively for years.