Multiple myeloma, also called MM–a type of cancer affecting the plasma cells– has many treatment options. Treatment options, however, depends on the stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis. With Stage I myeloma, or smoldering myeloma, an individual may not experience any symptoms. Thus, a physician may suggest the watchful waiting treatment option. Regardless of when multiple myeloma is diagnosed, the cancer is a treatable condition and doesn’t mean an instant death sentence.
Since smoldering myeloma doesn’t have any symptoms, a physician may recommend delaying treatment until symptoms appears. Every three months, a person may visit her doctor for regular checkups. The watchful wait approach means that she lives with the cancer without receiving any treatment unlike symptoms occur.
Stages II and III
Stage II and Stage III are more advanced because myeloma has begun causing problems with a person’s kidneys and/ or bones. The more advanced the stage, the higher, more myeloma cells in the body.
A physician treating a person experiencing symptoms of multiple myeloma may suggest induction therapy. Induction therapy includes different types of drugs that are used alone or in combination with other cancer killing drugs. Each drug attacks the cancer a different way. For instance, chemotherapy kills any fast-growing myeloma cells. Bortezomib blocks proteasome in the body causing the cancer to die. Other targeted therapies also prohibit the growth of myeloma cells. Steroids like prednisone and dexamethasone is another option. The steroids are used alone or in combination with other treatment options.
Stem Cell Transplant
A stem cell transplant destroys blood cells in the bone marrow affected and not affected by myeloma. Generally, the treatment involves high-doses of chemotherapy such as melphalan to kill the blood cells. Then a person receives a transfusion of immature blood cells, or stem cells, to replace her own cancerous ones. The stem cells can come from a donor or patient.
When an individual receives radiation therapy, high-energy rays are used to eliminate the cancer cells. Any areas of the body not affected by myeloma like reproductive organs or stomach aren’t subjected to radiation therapy. Typically, a physician may suggest this therapy for three reasons. The cancer is localized, bone pain isn’t responding to chemotherapy or preparation for stem cell transplant.
Things to Consider
The watchful waiting treatment approach is an option with some risks. A person who chooses this option may reduce the chance of controlling myeloma before it worsens, reports the National Cancer Institute (NCI). If an individual doesn’t want to take that traditional approach to smoldering myeloma, then explore another approach with the treating physician.
“Multiple Myeloma Treatment and Drugs”, Mayo Clinic,
“Radiation Therapy”, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society,
“Treatment”, National Cancer Institute,