What Happens When Treatment For Myeloma Fails

If your cancer continues to spread despite treatment or recurs after a period of remission, you may have the option to try another type of multiple myeloma treatment that will be more effective. Over time, however, your cancer may become resistant to this treatment as well. At this point, you have some difficult decisions to make about whether to continue treatment.

When Treatment for Myeloma Fails: Treatment vs. Comfort

After you have exhausted other treatment options, you may have access to a new, more advanced type of treatment for myeloma. If so, you may feel the new treatment is worth a try. At some point, however, you’ll have to weigh the benefits of having more treatment against the benefits of being comfortable during the remainder of your illness. This is one of the most difficult decisions you’ll ever have to make.

To make an educated decision, talk to your doctor about the likelihood that continuing a particular treatment will improve your prognosis. Educate yourself about newly available treatment options, their side effects and the effectiveness of each at treating patients with relapsed or refractory (resistant) myeloma. Learn about end-stage myeloma care options available to you.

Palliative Care for End-Stage Myeloma

Palliative care is one of your end-stage myeloma care options. The goal of palliative care is to improve your quality of life by managing the symptoms of your disease. Palliative care can relieve pain and discomfort, but it does not cure multiple myeloma. An example of palliative care is using radiation therapy to shrink a myeloma tumor that’s causing pain.

Also known as supportive care, palliative care is available at any stage of your disease, whether or not you’re receiving active treatment for myeloma.

Hospice Care for End-Stage Myeloma

Like palliative care, the goal of hospice care is to make you feel as well and as comfortable as possible during the final stages of your illness. Unlike palliative care, hospice care is offered only to terminally ill patients who no longer wish to receive active treatment for their disease. You can receive hospice care in your home, at a hospice care center or at a hospital.

Making Your End-Stage Myeloma Care Decisions

If you haven’t yet done so, you should set up advance directives for your end-stage multiple myeloma treatment. Advance directives for health care are legal documents that outline your medical care preferences during end-stage myeloma.

Although you may be perfectly capable of making such decisions even during the final stage of your illness, advance directives ensure that your wishes will be carried out by making them legally binding. Advance directives also relieve family members from having to make these decisions for you.


American Cancer Society. (2010). Multiple myeloma. Retrieved October 14, 2010, from http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003121-pdf.pdf

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2009). When cancer returns: How to cope with a cancer recurrence. Retrieved October 13, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cancer/CA00050

U.S. National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). Palliative care. Retrieved October 16, 2010, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/palliativecare.html