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Multiple Myeloma

  • Posted: 11/20/2008

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Supportive Care

Infections
Anemia
Pain
Thinning Bones
Too Much Calcium in the Blood
Kidney Problems
Amyloidosis

Multiple myeloma and its treatment can lead to other health problems. At any stage of the disease, you can have supportive care.

Supportive care is treatment to prevent or fight infections, to control pain and other symptoms, to relieve the side effects of therapy, and to help you cope with the feelings that a diagnosis of cancer can bring. You may receive supportive care to prevent or control these problems and to improve your comfort and quality of life during treatment.

You can get information about supportive care on NCI's Web site at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping and from NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER and LiveHelp.

Infections

Because people with multiple myeloma get infections very easily, you may receive antibiotics and other drugs.

Some people receive vaccines against the flu and pneumonia. You may want to talk with your health care team about when to get certain vaccines.

The health care team may advise you to stay away from crowds and from people with colds and other contagious diseases. If an infection develops, it can be serious and should be treated promptly. You may need to stay in the hospital for treatment.

Anemia

Myeloma and its treatment can lead to anemia, which may make you feel very tired. Drugs or a blood transfusion can help with this problem.

Pain

Multiple myeloma often causes bone pain. Your health care provider can suggest ways to relieve or reduce pain:
  • A brace that relieves pain in the neck or back
  • Drugs that fight pain anywhere in the body
  • Radiation therapy from a large machine aimed at the bone
  • Surgery to fix a compressed (squeezed) spinal cord
Some people get pain relief from massage or acupuncture when used along with other approaches. Also, you may learn relaxation techniques such as listening to slow music or breathing slowly and comfortably.

You may find it helpful to read the NCI booklet Pain Control.

Thinning Bones

Myeloma cells keep new bone cells from forming, and bones become thin wherever there are myeloma cells. Your doctor may give you drugs to prevent bone thinning and help reduce the risk of fractures. Physical activity, such as walking, also helps keep bones strong.

Too Much Calcium in the Blood

Multiple myeloma may cause calcium to leave the bones and enter the bloodstream. If you have a very high level of calcium in your blood, you may lose your appetite. You also may feel nauseated, restless, or confused. A high calcium level can also make you very tired, weak, dehydrated, and thirsty. Drinking a lot of fluids and taking drugs that lower the calcium in the blood can be helpful.

Kidney Problems

Some people with multiple myeloma have kidney problems. If the problems are severe, a person may need dialysis. Dialysis removes wastes from the blood. A person with serious kidney problems may need a kidney transplant.

Amyloidosis

Some people with myeloma develop amyloidosis. This problem is caused by abnormal proteins collecting in tissues of the body. The buildup of proteins can cause many problems, some of them severe. For example, proteins can build up in the heart, causing chest pain and swollen feet. There are drugs to treat amyloidosis.

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