Myeloma

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Myeloma, or multiple myeloma, is a cancer that starts in the bone marrow. The bone marrow is where our body makes blood cells.

Myeloma can cause bone pain, weak bones, and problems with the immune system.

Myeloma is less common than other cancers but it still affects a lot of people.

Plasmacytomas
Some people with myeloma develop plasmacytomas.

Plasmacytomas are abnormal plasma cells that form a lump in the bone or other parts of the body. This can cause pain, pressure on other body parts, or bone fractures.

Some people develop a plasmacytoma without having myeloma. This is called ‘solitary plasmacytoma’. This doesn’t always turn into myeloma, but it may over time. In this case, doctors keep a close eye on people and start treatment if things get worse.

Radiation Therapy and Myeloma

The best person to talk to about radiation therapy for myeloma is a radiation oncologist. A radiation oncologist is a specialist doctor who is part of the team that takes care of people having radiation therapy.

You can ask your doctor for a referral to a radiation oncologist to learn if radiation therapy is an option for you.

The Treatment Team

Doctors make a treatment plan for each person based on:

  • the type of cancer
  • where the cancer is
  • other treatments tried
  • the person’s health.

The type of treatment a person gets is worked out by a team of doctors and health professionals often called a Multidisciplinary Team.

A highly trained radiation oncology team takes care of people having radiation therapy. This includes radiation oncologists, radiation therapists, medical physicists and radiation oncology nurses.

Treatments for Myeloma

Doctors use chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, stem cell transplant and radiation therapy to treat myeloma.

These treatments aim to kill the cancer, stop it spreading, and help symptoms. Pain management and medicine to strengthen bones may also be part of the treatment.

Radiation therapy is an important treatment for myeloma. For multiple myeloma doctors use it to target and shrink localised disease, such as plasmacytomas or bone lesions. It also helps with pain or when there is pressure on other body parts.

Doctors also use radiation therapy with chemotherapy or targeted therapy to manage the disease and improve quality of life.

CAR T cell therapy is a new treatment that boosts the body’s immune system to fight myeloma. Treatment teams sometimes do radiation therapy before CAR T cell therapy to make it work better.

Types of Radiation Therapy used In Myeloma

External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT) is the most common type of radiation therapy used for myeloma.

Radiation oncologists often use Volumetric Arc Therapy (VMAT) which is an advanced type of external beam radiation therapy, to carefully deliver radiation to the areas that need to be treated.

Myelomas are very sensitive to radiation therapy. This means the treatment team can use a lower amount of radiation to effectively treat the cancer.

The length of treatment varies and depends on where the myeloma is and the goal of treatment. Some people get 1-2 treatments and others are treated daily from Monday to Friday for a few weeks.

General Information About Side Effects of Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is more effective with fewer side effects than ever before.

Recent advances mean radiation oncologists can effectively treat the cancer while getting less radiation on healthy body parts. This means much fewer side effects.

Side effects from radiation therapy vary between people, even for those having the same treatment.

While some people feel no side effects, some feel mild side effects, such as tiredness or skin redness during and/or just after treatment. These usually get better within a few weeks.

The treatment team will offer advice and medicine to help with side effects.

Serious side effects that start later (months to years after the radiation therapy) are rare.

Before starting treatment, your radiation oncologist will talk to you about side effects and answer your questions.

The side effects of radiation treatment can be split into 2 groups:

  1. Early side effects which occur during and shortly after radiation treatment.
  2. Late side effects which can occur months to years after radiation treatment.

For more information, go to the Potential Side Effects page.

Short-term side effects from radiation therapy for myeloma often peak after 2 weeks of treatment and can include:

Tiredness: Feeling more tired than usual during and after treatment.

Skin changes: The skin in the treated area might get red, irritated, or itchy.

Nausea and vomiting: Some people may feel sick in their stomach or vomit. This is especially the case if the radiation therapy is near the stomach or intestines.

Late side effects vary between people and can happen a few months to a few years after treatment.

These side effects may never occur, occur once, continue over time, or come and go.

Find additional information about cancer types, research groups, and support groups.

Further Information
You can ask your Surgeon or General Practitioner for a referral to a Radiation Oncologist for a discussion about whether radiation therapy is a suitable treatment option for you.

Radiation Oncologist

The best person to talk to is a radiation oncologist. You can ask your doctor for a referral to find out if radiation treatment is right for you.

GPs and Health Professionals

Information for any health professional involved in a patient's cancer care with a particular focus on primary care providers.

Talking to Your Doctor

Your GP or other doctors in the cancer team can organise a referral to a radiation oncologist.

Treatment Centres

Search and find your closest Radiation Oncology Treatment Centre.

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