Multiple myeloma and its treatment can lead to other health problems. You probably will receive supportive care to prevent or control these problems and to improve your comfort and quality of life.
People with multiple myeloma get infections very easily. You may receive antibiotics and other drugs to help protect you. Your health care team may advise you to stay away from crowds and from people with colds or other contagious diseases. If an infection develops, it can be serious and should be treated promptly. Some people need to stay in the hospital for treatment.
Myeloma and its treatment can lead to anemia, which may make you feel very tired. Drugs or blood transfusions can help with this problem.
Multiple myeloma often causes bone pain. Your health care provider can suggest ways to relieve or reduce pain. For example, drugs and local radiation therapy can help control bone pain. A brace may relieve pain in the neck or back. Some people get pain relief from massage or acupuncture when used along with other approaches. Also, the patient may learn relaxation techniques such as listening to slow music or breathing slowly and comfortably. Sometimes surgery is needed if the spinal cord is compressed (squeezed).
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.
Some patients with multiple myeloma have kidney problems. If the problems are severe, they may need dialysis. Dialysis removes wastes from the blood. In some cases, people with serious kidney problems may need a kidney transplant.
Some people with myeloma develop amyloidosis. Abnormal protein collects in tissues of the body. The build-up of protein can cause many problems, some of them severe. For example, protein can build up in the heart, causing chest pain and swollen feet. Drugs are used to treat amyloidosis
Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Some people with cancer use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to ease stress or to reduce side effects and symptoms:
- An approach is generally called complementary medicine when it is used along with standard treatment.
- An approach is called alternative medicine when it is used instead of standard treatment.
Acupuncture, massage therapy, herbal products, vitamins or special diets, visualization, meditation, and spiritual healing are types of CAM. Many people say that such approaches help them feel better.
However, some types of CAM may interfere with standard treatment. Combining CAM with standard treatment may even be harmful. Before trying any type of CAM, you should discuss its possible benefits and risks with your doctor.
It is important for people with multiple myeloma to eat well and to drink plenty of fluids. Eating well means getting enough calories to maintain a good weight and enough protein to keep up your strength. Good nutrition often helps people with cancer feel better and have more energy.
But eating well can be difficult. You may not feel like eating if you are uncomfortable or tired. Also, the side effects of treatment (such as poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, or mouth sores) can be a problem. Some people find that foods do not taste as good during cancer therapy
Follow-up care after treatment for multiple myeloma is important. Your doctor will monitor your health and check for recurrence or changes in the cancer. Checkups help ensure that any changes in your health are noted and treated as needed. Checkups may include a physical exam, lab tests, bone marrow aspiration, and x-rays. Between scheduled visits, you should contact the doctor right away if you have any health problems.
Sources of Support
Living with a serious disease such as multiple myeloma is not easy. You may worry about caring for your family, keeping your job, or continuing daily activities. Concerns about treatments and managing side effects, hospital stays, and medical bills are also common. Doctors, nurses, and other members of the health care team can answer questions about treatment, work, or other activities. Meeting with a social worker, counselor, or member of the clergy can be helpful if you want to talk about your feelings or concerns. Often, a social worker can suggest resources for financial aid, transportation, home care, or emotional support.
Support groups also can help. In these groups, patients or their family members meet with other patients or their families to share what they have learned about coping with the disease and the effects of treatment. Groups may offer support in person, over the telephone, or on the Internet. You may want to talk with a member of your health care team about finding a support group