(For treatment side effects and complications only)
Dorothy Williams (pictured right) was first diagnosed with myeloma in 1996 and is a patient at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre. Her treatment over the years has included chemotherapy and stem cell transplants as well as surgery in another hospital.
Dorothy had never heard of myeloma when she was diagnosed so she has shared her story to help raise awareness and to offer support and encouragement to others diagnosed with myeloma.
Read Dorothy's story here.
Myeloma is a type of cancer that develops from cells in the bone marrow. We see between 30-40 new patients with myeloma each year and provide quick diagnosis and expert treatment.
If you come to the hospital you can expect:
Support - every step of the way
You’ll be assigned a specialist nurse who will be with you throughout your treatment journey – from your first appointment to aftercare. The nurse will help you with any problems or questions you may have.
Experts giving you the best treatment
Specialists from different medical areas meet weekly. This is called a multi-disciplinary team meeting (MDT) and is central to the way we work. The MDT advise, support and create treatment plans that are personalised for every patient.
Access to the latest treatments
The clinical trials programme makes new treatments available to patients. Sometimes these can be more effective. We aim to have a trial option open to myeloma patients at each step of the treatment path.
As a specialist cancer centre, we lead research into myeloma diagnosis and treatment. We regularly publish research papers that help in the fight against cancer.
Myeloma does not usually cause any symptoms in its early stages. However, some patients experience:
It may take up to three weeks for your test results to come through. This depends on the types of tests you have at the hospital.
Your doctor (GP) will take blood and urine tests to get a better understanding of why you are having symptoms that may suggest you have a Myeloma. You’ll then be referred to the hospital for further investigation.
We will see you within two weeks of getting an urgent referral from your doctor. Your clinic appointment will be sent to you in the post.
Skeletal survey x-rays
We will perform a skeletal survey (x-rays of your bones) if your blood and urine tests suggest possible myeloma. A number of X-rays are taken and the bones checked for damage. Damage usually shows as dark areas on the x-ray.
MRI scan and CT scan
These two scans produce images that are more detailed than x-rays. Often these scans are taken when a more detailed look at your bones is required.
MRI means magnetic resonance imaging. It uses magnetic and radio waves to look at the tissues in your body.
CT means computerised tomography. In short, CT scans use a computer to join-up x-rays to make a 3D picture of your body.
Bone marrow biopsy
A biopsy is the final stage in confirming a diagnosis of myeloma. A small sample of your bone marrow is taken for examination. The biopsy is usually carried out under a local anaesthetic (meaning you don’t go to sleep).
The procedure is quick – taking 15 minutes – and usually painless. You may have bruising for a few days after. The sample is studied in a laboratory to check if there are any cancerous plasma cells present.
Your test results are discussed by the multi-disciplinary team (MDT). This is a team of doctors and health professionals who specialise in different aspects of treating myeloma.
The Multi Disciplinary Team gives advice on treatment options that will benefit you the most. Of course, you have the final decision about the type of treatment you receive.
Treatment starts as soon as possible after the cancer is discovered. You are assigned a specialist nurse who stays with you every step of your treatment journey. The nurse is your key-worker and is available to answer any questions you may have along the way.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It can be given either orally (by tablet), by injecting it directly into the vein, or as a combination of both. It is usually given over a period of months.
Each treatment is called a cycle. You’ll get time to recover between each treatment cycle. Chemotherapy kills cancer cells and healthy bone marrow cells. Some patients with myeloma will be referred for stem cell transplantation.
Radiotherapy is used to help relieve symptoms of bone pain. Radiotherapy uses high-energy waves of radiation to reduce the number of cancer cells in the bone. This gives the bone the opportunity to repair itself. One or two treatments are given.
Bisphosphonates are medications aimed at helping regenerate the bone with new cells (called bone remodelling process). This is given by injection.
Surgery to repair or strengthen damaged bones, usually in the spine. There are two surgical techniques that can be used: percutaneous vertebroplasty (using special cement to strengthen the bone) and balloon kyphoplasty (putting a tiny balloon in the affected area and filling it with cement).
Relapse therapy: If cancerous cells do return, you will be given an additional course of chemotherapy (and maybe a stem cell transplant). This is to try and get the cancer back into remission.
Myeloma clinical trials
As multiple myeloma is an uncommon condition, you may be asked to take part in a clinical trial. Clinical trials help us learn more about the best way to treat specific conditions.
Members of the MDT include:
Visit the Macmillan Cancer website here
Visit the Cancer Research UK website here
Visit the NHS.uk website here
Visit the Myeloma UK website here