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Chemotherapy for multiple myeloma

chemotherapy

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs designed to slow or stop the growth of rapidly dividing cancer cells in the body. It may be used:

  • As a primary treatment to destroy cancer cells
  • Before another treatment to shrink a tumor
  • After another treatment to destroy any remaining cancer cells
  • To relieve symptoms of advanced cancer

At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), our medical oncologists are experienced in delivering targeted, individualized chemotherapy options while also proactively managing side effects.

Chemotherapy delivery methods

Some chemotherapy delivery methods include:

  • Orally (by mouth as a pill or liquid)
  • Intravenously (by infusion into a vein)  
  • Topically (as a cream on the skin)
  • Injection
  • Direct placement (via a lumbar puncture or device placed under the scalp)

When chemotherapy drugs travel through the bloodstream to reach cells throughout the body, it is called systemic chemotherapy. When chemotherapy drugs are directed to a specific area of the body, it is called regional chemotherapy.

Experienced care team

For most of our patients, a medical oncologist serves as their primary doctor. Our medical oncologists specialize in diagnosing cancer and delivering chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy and/or hormone therapy. They will work closely with you and the rest of your care team to discuss chemotherapy options based on your individual needs.

Individualized treatment approach

When you arrive at the hospital, your medical oncologist will review your medical history and perform a full diagnostic evaluation, then present you with a treatment plan based on your specific diagnosis.

Chemotherapy is an important part of treatment for many of our patients. Our physicians use leading treatment protocols and practice evidence-based medicine. In some cases, we may use innovative delivery methods to treat certain types of cancer.

We strive to find the right chemotherapy drug, or combination of drugs, for each person. We may use tests, such as tumor molecular profiling, to identify an appropriate drug combination for your disease and help you avoid unnecessary toxicity.

If chemotherapy is part of your treatment plan, your medical oncologist will coordinate your dosage and schedule. You may receive chemotherapy alone, or in combination with other treatment modalities like targeted therapies, surgery and/or radiation therapy.

Throughout your treatment, your medical oncologist will monitor the effectiveness of your chemotherapy regimen and modify your treatment plan accordingly.

Managing chemotherapy side effects

While chemotherapy targets cancer cells, it can also damage healthy cells and cause unpleasant side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, hair loss, fatigue and mouth sores. Your dedicated care team will provide a variety of integrative oncology services to help you prevent or manage side effects throughout your chemotherapy treatment.

Chemotherapy medical animation

Video: Chemotherapy Medical Animation

Medical animation

Chemotherapy for multiple myeloma

Chemotherapy for multiple myeloma may consist of a single agent or a combination of drugs. Because each medication destroys tumor cells in different ways, giving several drugs together may make the cells more vulnerable to treatment. For patients with multiple myeloma, chemotherapy is typically given orally (by mouth, in pill form) or intravenously (injection into the vein).

A typical treatment regimen for multiple myeloma

Many multiple myeloma patients receive chemotherapy in combination with other drugs/treatments to fight the disease and prevent recurrence. A typical multiple myeloma treatment plan may include:

  1. Induction chemotherapy (a combination of drugs used to destroy as many myeloma cells as possible).
  2. Consolidation chemotherapy (high doses of chemotherapy to destroy any remaining myeloma cells) followed by a single or tandem stem cell transplant.
  3. Maintenance therapy (a less intensive course of chemotherapy to reduce the risk of recurrence).

Some examples of drugs we may use to treat multiple myeloma include: melphalan, bortezomib (e.g., Velcade®), thalidomide (e.g., Thalomid®), lenalidomide (e.g., Revlimid® ) and corticosteroids (e.g., prednisone, dexamethasone (Decadron®)).

Throughout your treatment, we will conduct routine blood tests and other diagnostic tests to check for myeloma cells and make modifications to your treatment plan as needed.

Managing the side effects of chemotherapy

While chemotherapy destroys rapidly-dividing cancer cells, it can affect normal fast-growing cells, such as those in the hair, mouth, GI tract and bone marrow. Chemotherapy for multiple myeloma can also temporarily interfere with the ability of the bone marrow to produce adequate numbers of blood cells, lowering blood cell counts and increasing the risk of infection.

The following are examples of how we help you manage side effects during your multiple myeloma chemotherapy treatment:

  • Low blood cell counts: Your oncologist may use certain drugs to stimulate blood cell production or give you a transfusion to restore your counts to a normal level.
  • Nausea: Your oncologist may prescribe medications and your naturopathic clinician may recommend natural therapies to ease nausea.
  • Constipation: Your naturopath may recommend diet and lifestyle interventions, fiber supplements, stool softeners or other remedies to ease constipation
  • Taste changes: Your dietitian will work with the hospital’s culinary team to find foods that appeal to you and that your body can tolerate.
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