Myeloma Cancer Supportive Care

Multiple myeloma and treatments for multiple myeloma can cause a number of complications and symptoms. The goal of myeloma cancer supportive care is to alleviate these complications and symptoms. This treatment, also known as palliative care, is available at any stage of your disease.

What is Myeloma Cancer Supportive Care?

Palliative care is intended to treat pain and other symptoms produced by multiple myeloma and myeloma cancer treatment. The best supportive care improves your overall quality of life by enhancing your enjoyment of life and improving your ability to carry out everyday activities.

Some of the key areas for myeloma cancer supportive care are:

  • Anemia
  • Bone-related problems
  • Hyperviscosity
  • Infections.

Cancer Supportive Care for Anemia

Myeloma cells crowd out the healthy blood cells in the bone marrow resulting in a number of health problems, including anemia. Anemia is often treated with the synthetic hormone erythropoietin, which helps to stimulate the production of red blood cells. If your anemia is severe, blood transfusions may be necessary.

Multiple Myeloma Bone Pain and Bone Loss

Myeloma tumors cause your bones to focally dissolve, resulting in severe bone loss. Bone loss can cause bone fractures, osteoporosis and excess calcium in the blood, a serious condition known as hypercalcemia.

Typically, bone loss is treated with bisphosphonates which reduce bone loss by binding to the surface of your bones. In very rare cases, bisphosphonates can result in a serious condition called osteonecrosis of the jaw, in which part of the jawbone becomes infected.

Palliative care for bone pain may include painkillers, radiation therapy and surgery. Surgery may be necessary to prevent or treat bone fractures and spinal cord compression.

Hypercalcemia can cause kidney damage. You may require kidney dialysis as part of your cancer supportive care.

Supportive Care for Hyperviscosity

When M proteins build up in the blood, they can thicken the blood and interfere with proper circulation. This condition is known as hyperviscosity. The thickened blood can clog blood vessels in the brain, leading to dizziness, mental confusion and stroke-like symptoms.

Hyperviscosity is treated with a procedure called plasmapheresis. During this procedure, blood is removed from a vein and sent to a machine, which separates your blood plasma from your blood cells. The plasma, which carries the M proteins, is discarded. The blood cells are mixed with a salt solution and donor plasma and are then returned to your body.

Cancer Supportive Care for Infections

Both myeloma cancer and myeloma treatment can reduce your white blood cell count, making you more susceptible to illness. Your doctor may treat infections with antibiotics or recommend certain vaccines to prevent infection.

Supportive Care Services

Supportive care services are available for a myriad of other multiple myeloma symptoms. Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing discomfort or pain due to your disease or your treatment regime. Don’t suffer unnecessarily when supportive care services are available to make you more comfortable.

Resources

American Cancer Society. (2010). Multiple myeloma. Retrieved October 12, 2010, from http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003121-pdf.pdf

Cancer Research UK. (n.d.). Controlling symptoms of myeloma. Retrieved October 12, 2010, from http://www.cancerhelp.org.uk/type/myeloma/treatment/controlling-symptoms-of-myeloma

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2009). Multiple myeloma: Treatment and drugs. Retrieved October 12, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/multiple-myeloma/DS00415/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs

National Cancer Institute. (2008). Supportive care. Retrieved October 12, 2010, from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/myeloma/page9

National Comprehensive Cancer Network. (n.d.). Myeloma: Multiple myeloma. Retrieved October 12, 2010, from http://www.nccn.com/index.php/treatment-summaries/myeloma

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. (n.d.). Treatments for complications. Retrieved October 12, 2010, from http://www.seattlecca.org/diseases/complications.cfm