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Multiple Myeloma

Getting a Diagnosis continued...

You might have one of these other tests:

  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine to check how well your kidneys work
  • Protein levels in the blood and urine
  • Complete blood count (CBC) to measure red and white blood cells

Your doctor may suggest that you have a bone marrow biopsy. A doctor or technician inserts a needle into your bone, usually in the hip, and removes a sample of liquid marrow. People with multiple myeloma have a high number of plasma cells in their bone marrow.

Imaging tests can also help doctors diagnose multiple myeloma and see whether it has spread. These tests may include:

  • Bone X-rays, which use radiation in low doses to make images of your bones
  • CT scans, powerful X-rays that make detailed pictures of your body
  • MRI, which uses powerful magnets and radio waves to make pictures of organs and structures inside your body
  • PET scans, which use materials that give off energy, called tracers, to look for cancer

Before suggesting treatment, doctors will want to know the number of myeloma cells in your body, if you have bone damage, and your red blood cell count.

What to Ask Your Doctor

  • Do I need any more tests?
  • What stage is my cancer and how does this affect my treatment options?
  • Have you treated this disease before?
  • What treatment do you recommend?
  • How will it make me feel?
  • What if it doesn't work?
  • Is a stem cell transplant possible?
  • Could I be part of a clinical trial?
  • Should my family be tested?
  • How does my family find support in managing this disease?

Treatment

There are different treatments for multiple myeloma. Talk with your doctor about your options:

Chemotherapy -- drugs that kill cancer cells -- can often slow the progress of the disease when they're used together with other treatments.

Steroid drugs, such as dexamethasone (Decadron) or prednisone, can help destroy the faulty plasma cells. Also, they may lessen the stomach sickness chemotherapy can cause. Usually, they're taken in combination with other standard chemo. 

Some medicines destroy cancer cells and stop the growth of new blood vessels that "feed" cancer cells.  They include:

  • lenalidomide (Revlimid)
  • pomalidomide (Pomalyst)
  • thalidomide (Thalomid)

Other drugs keep cancer cells from dividing and multiplying by stopping proteins from breaking down.   They include:

  • bortezomib  (Velcade )
  • carfilzomib (Kyprolis )

You may need to take more than one of these types of drugs together.

Radiation therapy uses high-dose X-rays to destroy cancer cells.

A stem cell transplant replaces the cancerous cells with healthy cells. These can come from you, a close relative, or a matched donor. First, you get a high-dose chemotherapy drug. It kills both the cancer and healthy cells in your bone marrow.

After your chemo, you'll get a transplant of stem cells that can help get your bone marrow working right again. These particular stem cells are ones that live in your bone marrow and help make new blood cells.

WebMD Medical Reference

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