Supportive care

Living with multiple myeloma

There is more to managing multiple myeloma than treating the disease itself. Living with a serious disease can have an impact on every aspect of your life. The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation is a resource to help you deal with the many challenges that come along with multiple myeloma.

Supportive and complementary care

Supportive and complementary care approaches are used alongside standard care (evidence-based medicine with the goal of treating multiple myeloma) to improve the overall patient experience. Here are some services/techniques that many people with multiple myeloma find helpful during the course of their disease:

  • Physical therapy
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Relaxation techniques (such as meditation, hypnosis, and yoga)
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Exercise programs
  • Emotional health support (such as counseling and support groups)
  • Spiritual health support
  • Support for practical concerns (including financial assistance, transportation to and from treatments, etc)

Be sure to speak with your healthcare team if you feel you would benefit from any of these supportive care approaches. Some medical centers may offer such services for free or at a reduced cost for cancer patients.

Adjunctive treatments

In addition to receiving medical treatments directed at managing your disease, you will most likely require additional treatments to help manage symptoms, side effects, and complications. The following adjunctive treatments are commonly used in the care of people with multiple myeloma.

For bone damage

  • Bisphosphonates (bone-supportive drugs)
  • Surgery to treat spinal fractures (vertebroplasty or balloon kyphoplasty)

For kidney damage

  • Fluids
  • Plasmapheresis
  • Dialysis
  • Avoiding NSAIDs (such as Advil, Motrin, and Aleve)

For anemia

  • Dietary supplements (iron, folate, or vitamin B12)
  • Growth hormones: erythropoietin (EPO, Procrit, Epogen) or colony-stimulating factors (CSFs)

For infections due to low white blood cell counts

  • Vaccinations
  • Intravenous (IV) antibodies
  • Preventive herpes medications

or patients receiving proteasome inhibitors

  • Colony-stimulating factors (Neupogen, Neulasta, Leukine)
  • Antibiotics or antifungals

For blood clots

  • Blood thinners (aspirin, heparin)
  • Nondrug methods (for example, compression stockings)

Hospice

While there are many different types of treatment for multiple myeloma, including clinical trials, some patients may reach a point when their disease no longer responds to anything they try. At that point, they may consider the option of discontinuing treatment. That’s where hospice care—which focuses on quality, rather than length, of life—comes in.

Hospice care incorporates many different treatment approaches to provide pain and symptom management, with the goal of helping patients live as purposefully and fully as possible. If a person who has chosen hospice care later decides to try another multiple myeloma treatment, he or she can leave hospice care at any time.

Hospice care can be received in a patient’s home, a hospice inpatient facility, or a hospital. For more information about hospice care, or for assistance finding a hospice program, the following links may be helpful: