Understanding Multiple Myeloma and How it Affects Your Life

A hopeful cancer patient sitting in a sofa

• Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that affects the bone marrow plasma cells, with around 34,470 cases in 2022.

• Treatment for MM involves medication, radiation therapy, stem cell transplantation, and/or surgery to manage symptoms and extend a patient’s life.

• To manage MM, getting plenty of rest, exercising regularly, and eating healthy foods are important.

• A psycho-oncologist can help with the behavioral aspects associated with MM, such as anger, fear, and grief.

• Consider participating in clinical trials and research studies to access the latest treatments for multiple myeloma.

Multiple myeloma (MM) is cancer affecting the bone marrow plasma cells. According to the American Cancer Society, there is an estimate of over 34,470 cases in 2022. This number includes 19,100 cases in men and 15,370 cases in women. The disease typically affects older adults, with a median age of 65 at diagnosis.

It is classified as a hematological malignancy affecting the blood and bone marrow. It can be a challenging diagnosis, but treatments are available to help manage the disease. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, it’s important to know what to expect and how to best support them during this time.

Managing Symptoms

Multiple myeloma can cause many symptoms, including fatigue, bone pain, anemia, low blood counts (neutropenia), kidney problems, and more. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for multiple myeloma. Still, treatments can help manage the symptoms and extend a patient’s life.

Treatment typically involves medication, radiation therapy, stem cell transplantation, and/or surgery. Depending on the severity and frequency of these symptoms, your loved one may need help managing them. Ask your doctor for tips on how you can best support them as they navigate their treatment plan and manage their symptoms.

Living with MM can be challenging for both patient and caregiver alike. Here are some tips for managing the condition:

Get Plenty of Rest

Fatigue is one of MM’s most common symptoms. It causes patients to become easily tired and have difficulty completing daily tasks. Make sure your loved one gets enough rest–this can include naps, more time in bed at night, or even scheduling breaks during the day to recharge.

A woman with cancer in the hospital sleeping

Exercise Regularly

Multiple myeloma causes the body to become weak, making it hard for patients to engage in physical activity. Exercising such as strolling, stair climbing, or dancing can help build your bones and muscles. But if you experience any bone pain or a shift in your discomfort symptoms after engaging in weight-bearing activities, make sure to talk to your doctor immediately.

Eat Healthy Foods

Eating healthy, balanced meals is important, especially if you have multiple myeloma. Eating iron-rich foods like lean meats, beans, and dark leafy greens can help your body combat anemia, a common side effect of the disease. Also, focus on eating antioxidant-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and nuts to strengthen your immune system.

Mental Health Support

It’s important to recognize that living with multiple myeloma is not just a physical burden — it can also take an emotional toll on patients and their families. Make sure you are both taking time for self-care in whatever way works best for you — whether engaging in activities like light exercise or yoga, getting enough rest, or talking through any worries or fears with a therapist.

You can also get professional mental support through psycho-oncology services. These professionals are specifically trained to help people cope with cancer diagnoses, treatments, and symptoms. They will also be able to provide tips for managing stress, anxiety, and depression. A psycho-oncologist can also help you deal with the behavioral aspects associated with MM, such as anger, fear, and grief.

A therapist talking to patients in a therapy session

Finding Support Networks

You don’t have to go through this journey alone! Many hospitals and cancer treatment centers offer support groups for people with multiple myeloma. These groups provide an opportunity to connect with others who understand what it’s like to live with this type of cancer. Additionally, online communities such as forums and websites provide additional support by connecting people from around the world who are dealing with similar issues related to multiple myeloma.

Participating in Clinical Trials

Look into participating in multiple myeloma clinical trials. These studies allow multiple myeloma research participants to try new treatments and therapies that may not yet be available to the public. Participating can also give your loved one access to more personalized care and support from a team of medical professionals. This is a great opportunity to learn more about multiple myeloma and the latest treatment developments that could benefit your loved one.

Living with multiple myeloma can be a difficult journey. Still, you can stay strong and hopeful with the right support and knowledge. With the right care team, lifestyle changes, and resources available, it is possible to manage MM and live a full life. Don’t forget that you are not alone—there are plenty of resources and support networks to help you through this challenging time.

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