What is multiple myeloma?
Cancer could be present when there is an abnormal cell growth in any part of the body. The bone marrow of our body produces a type of bold white cell called plasma cells. When these plasma cells show abnormal growth, it causes a type of cancer called myeloma or multiple myeloma (as it affects multiple parts or regions of the body). It is a rare and incurable disease. In the US, the risk of getting this cancer is 0.7% or 1 in 143 people.
As multiple myeloma does not have any permanent cure, there is a chance of it recurring. This reoccurrence of cancer even after treatment or remitting, is known as relapsed multiple myeloma.
Even though the disease is incurable, patients with relapsed multiple myeloma need to consult a doctor as soon as possible.
Treatment for myeloma
Treatment would depend on the stage of cancer and the overall health of the patient. Introduction of new therapies and drugs helps in delaying the relapse after initial treatment. Controlling and destroying myeloma cells or curing ailments caused due to myeloma, helps to increase the chances of the patient’s survival by a few years.
The following medications are conventionally used in treating multiple myeloma:
- Precision medicines (Darzalex, Farydak, Simplicity)
- Immunomodulatory drugs,
- Proteasome inhibitors
- Chemotherapy and
Unfortunately, even with all these medications, a relapse cannot be prevented. Researchers are finding ways to extend the life of patients by increasing the remission period. For killing cancer cells, high doses of chemotherapy are considered more effective. But it has dangerous side effects such as damaging healthy cells in the bone marrow. Though, this can be corrected through a stem cell transplant. Stem cell transplant has been effective in preventing relapsed multiple myeloma.
Patients are advised to go for regular health checkups even during remission period. So that if and when cancer relapses, doctors can begin immediate treatment based on the cause of relapse and the overall health of the patient. Autologous stem cell transplant, allogeneic stem cell transplant, targeted therapy and maintenance therapy are some of the treatment options that are available for relapsed multiple myeloma.
The most important thing for patients is to keep themselves well informed. With proper preparation and treatment, the situation can be controlled.