A rare condition, multiple myeloma is cancer that develops in the bone marrow. It affects a certain type of white blood cells that are known as plasma cells. In a healthy body, these cells act as fighter cells and protect it from infections by making antibodies which recognize and destroy germs. When an individual is affected by multiple myeloma, the cancer cells begin to accumulate in the marrow, leading to the crowding out of healthy cells. This, in turn, puts the immune system at immense risk.
As with every type of cancer, multiple myeloma too puts the body through severe stress and affects the overall wellbeing of an individual. The signs and symptoms of this condition can vary from one person to another. Also, in the early stages, there may be no symptoms and this makes it difficult for it to be detected early on. There are multiple forms of treatment that can be opted for in the early stages wherein people do not experience any lifestyle altering signs and symptoms yet. In the cases of an advanced condition, treatment can aid in relieving the pain and controlling several complications. It will also slow the progression of the disease.
Here are some of common forms of treatment methods employed for multiple myeloma:
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the most widely used form of treatment employed to kill cancer cells. The chemotherapy drugs can kill fast-growing cells and are usually used in combination with other treatments to derive the best benefits. Typically, chemotherapy is administered through the oral consumption of the drugs, however, they can also be given intravenously. While chemotherapy brings good results, the use of this treatment also involves the risk of destruction of healthy cells. This is because as they are administered, the drugs enter the bloodstream and get in contact with every part of the body. The drug dosage and the period of administration are responsible for determining the degree of side effects.
- Biological therapy: With biological therapy, the given drugs drive the body’s immune system to fight the cancerous cells. This therapy includes drugs such as thalidomide, pomalidomide, and lenalidomide which enhance the effectiveness of the immune system cells; helping in identifying and attacking the myeloma cells. The medication is usually administered in the form of pills.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy is a treatment form that involves the use of high-energy beams and particles that penetrate through the tissues. They then damage the cells and prevent further growth. The procedure resembles that of an X-ray. Radiation is typically only employed when chemotherapy does not show effective results and takes places over a period of time.
- Surgery: A surgical procedure may be used when multiple myeloma is detected in the early stages. It involves the removal of the cells from a small affected area. This form of cancer can also weaken the bones and cause compression. The bones and muscles tend to severely weaken and this is when a surgery may be the best form of treatment for multiple myeloma. An elective surgical procedure too may be used to prevent further damage of the bones. Rods and plates are attached to the bones for better support.
- Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids are used to regulate the immune system and thereby control inflammation in the body. These include prednisone and dexamethasone that work against the myeloma cells. The drugs can be taken in the form of pills or can also be injected through the vein.
- Bone marrow transplant: Bone marrow transplant or commonly known as a stem marrow transplant is a treatment procedure that involves replacing the affected marrow with healthy bone marrow. This is a very common form of treatment used for multiple myeloma. As part of this procedure, blood-forming stem cells are first collected. The patient then receives very high doses of chemotherapy that work by destroying the diseased bone marrow. The stem cells are then infused into the body after which they travel to the bones and new bone marrow begins to form.
- Intravenous immunoglobulin: An individual who suffers from multiple myeloma is at an increased risk of suffering from decreased levels of antibodies. The immune system is severely affected and causes several health conditions. For this reason, intravenous immunoglobin is injected into the body. They are collected from donors and work as antibodies that are injected through the veins. This form of treatment is usually used in combination with other treatment methods.
It is imperative to understand the different forms of treatment methods and the procedure in depth. Probable effects must be discussed with the doctors beforehand. The treatment received is majorly driven by the risk of disease progression, age, and overall health. One method or a combination of treatment methods may be used. Multiple myeloma treatment can cause several complications such as bone pain, anemia, kidney complications, and infections which may require a different set of treatment methods.