Multiple myeloma is a growth of abnormal plasma cells. Plasma cells are a type of white blood cells that are made by the bone marrow. Normal plasma cells make antibodies to fight infection. When you have multiple myeloma, the plasma cells are not normal and the numbers increase. The increased numbers of abnormal plasma cells make a lot of abnormal antibodies that are not useful and may be harmful. Myeloma cells crowd out normal blood cells made by the bone marrow.
There are different types and stages of multiple myeloma based on what kind of cancer cells are found, where the cancer cells started and where they have spread. Knowing the type and stage of multiple myeloma you have helps your healthcare provider decide on the best treatment plan for you. It is important to diagnose and treat multiple myeloma as soon as possible. The main goals of treatment are to kill the cancer cells and control the cancer.
The cause of multiple myeloma is not well known. However, you may be more at risk for developing multiple myeloma if you are overweight or obese, have a family history of multiple myeloma, have other plasma cell diseases, or are over age 65.
How can I take care of myself when I go home?
How long it takes to get better depends on the type and stage of cancer, your treatment, how well you recover, your overall health, and any complications you may have.
Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.
Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you should take them, and why you take each one.
Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.
Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
Talk to your provider before you use any other medicines, including nonprescription medicines.
Your provider may prescribe medicine or other therapy to:
Treat or prevent an infection
Treat or prevent low blood counts caused by the cancer or its treatment.
Treat or prevent side effects, such as nausea or constipation, from other treatments
Treat or slow bone disease
Help your immune system fight cancer
If you have had surgery, to care for your surgical wound:
Keep your surgical wound clean.
If you are told to change the dressing on your surgical wound, wash your hands before changing the dressing and after disposing of the dressing.
Follow activity restrictions, such as not driving or operating machinery, as recommended by your healthcare provider or pharmacist, especially if you are taking pain medicines.
Take care of your health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and try to keep a healthy weight. If you smoke, try to quit. If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. Learn ways to manage stress. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.
You may need other treatments for your cancer after you leave the hospital. Treatments may include:
Chemotherapy (anticancer drugs), which uses medicine to kill cancer cells. Different types of chemotherapy may be given in the hospital, outpatient clinic, or at home.
Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation treatment may be done in the hospital or an outpatient clinic.
Biological therapy, which uses medicine designed to help your immune system fight the cancer or block the growth of cancer cells.
Follow your provider’s instructions for follow-up appointments and routine tests.
Keep appointments for all other testing you may need. Testing may include:
Blood tests to check for certain hormones, proteins, or chemicals that may be high if you have cancer
Bone X-rays: Pictures of your bones to check for cancer
Bone scan: A series of detailed pictures that are taken after your healthcare provider injects a small amount of radioactive material into your blood. The scan shows any areas of bone where the radioactive material is being absorbed.
Chest X-ray: Pictures of the inside of your chest to check for cancer
Computed tomography (CT) scan: A series of X-rays taken from different angles and arranged by a computer to show thin cross sections of the bones and other areas where the cancer may have spread
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A powerful magnetic field and radio waves are used to take pictures from different angles to show thin cross sections of the bones and other areas where the cancer may have spread
Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: A test in which you will be given an injection of a low-level radioactive material attached to a natural body chemical. The scan shows where the radioactive material went and how much of it the tumors are using.
Talk with your provider about any questions or concerns you have.
Call your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening:
Deep bone pain
Signs of infection around your surgical wound. These include:
The area around your wound is more red or painful
Your wound area is very warm to touch
You have blood, pus, or other fluid coming from the wound area
You have a fever of 100.5 degrees F (38.1 degrees C) or higher
National Cancer Instituteâ€™s Cancer Information Service 1-800-4-CANCER (800-422-6237) http://www.cancer.gov
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Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-12-22 Last reviewed: 2014-12-22
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.