Common Issues in Supportive Care: Part 3 – Kidney Disease, Nutrition, & General Health

Welcome to the final segment of our three part blog series on common issues in supportive care. This section will cover kidney disease, nutrition and general health. Be sure you talk regularly to your health care team—together, you can figure out the best management plan for you and, ideally, prevent these issues from developing.

Kidney disease

In myeloma, plasma cells (normal cells that produce substances called antibodies or immunoglobulins) transform into cancerous myeloma cells. Myeloma cells produce large quantities of M proteins (which are actually abnormal forms of immunoglobulins). The accumulation of M protein and calcium (that is, the hypercalcemia we described earlier that is caused by bone destruction) in the blood can overwork the kidneys, because M protein is filtered by the kidneys and can cause direct damage to the kidneys itself. The amount of urine produced may decrease, and the kidneys may fail to function normally. This can be detected by measuring a protein in the blood called creatinine. The presence of high levels of creatinine is a sign of kidney disease. More than half of myeloma patients experience a decrease in their kidney function (also called renal function) at some point in the course of the disease. Other clinical conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, can contribute to kidney disease.

How can you protect your kidneys? Hydrate! Most doctors and nurses tell their patients to always have a bottle of water handy and to make sure they frequently drink from it to avoid becoming dehydrated. Another important way to keep from becoming dehydrated is to avoid alcohol. People at risk for kidney disease should also avoid the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include drugs like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve). Be sure to tell your non-myeloma doctors (such as your primary care physician and nurses) about your need to avoid these drugs—they should find other alternatives for pain medication, if needed. Also, make sure your blood pressure is well controlled.

Nutrition and general health

What else can you do to help your body more effectively battle myeloma? Be sure to eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet. See a nutritionist if one is available at your cancer center. Even though it may be hard when you’re tired, try to exercise—exercise has been proven to help cancer-related fatigue. Make sure you’re getting adequate sleep, too. Sleep disruption is one of the main causes of fatigue. When possible, conserve energy—take friends or family up on offers to shop or run errands for you. Also—of course—don’t smoke. And, to the extent possible, make sure you’re minimizing and eliminating stress.

Part 2 – Low Blood Counts
Part 1 – Bone Health

Nurse Patient Navigators in the MMRF Patient Support Center are always available at 888-841-6673 to help answer any questions you have or to help you find the right resources to help in your fight against myeloma.

Additional Resources

MMRF. How important is your nutrition in your battle with multiple myeloma?

MMRF. Symptoms, side effects, and complications.

MMRF. 2019 Patient Summits.

MMRF. MMRF Patient Toolkit. Multiple Myeloma Disease Overview.