(BPT) - Multiple myeloma is the third most common type of blood cancer affecting more than 83,000 Americans. Since the disease affects each person differently, people with multiple myeloma can better understand their treatment journey by building strong relationships and learning how to effectively communicate with their health care team.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cell. Common symptoms may include bone pain or fatigue due to anemia, but the disease can be difficult to identify if symptoms are delayed, appear similar to other conditions, or there are none at all. Over time, myeloma cells collect in bone marrow, which may eventually lead to some bone damage. Because myeloma cells travel through the bloodstream, the disease can affect many bones throughout the body.
'Living with multiple myeloma, I have had to educate myself about the nature of my disease, the various treatment options available to me and ways to monitor my myeloma so I could confidently make informed medical decisions,' says Cindy Chmielewski, a multiple myeloma patient. 'It's been a process to get here - from the passive patient I initially was to an engaged partner - but I now feel empowered to talk openly with my team of doctors and nurses to discuss my diagnosis, treatment plan, test results and ways to manage side effects.'
If you or a loved one is facing a multiple myeloma diagnosis, these questions may help guide conversations with your doctor during initial appointments:
- What symptoms might show that my disease is advancing?
- What types of tests will I need and how often will I need them?
- What are the treatment options available to me?
- What side effects have been reported with these treatment options?
- How long will I receive treatment and how will it be given?
- What happens after I complete my treatment?
'Learning about your condition and treatment is an important step to taking an active role in your care, and consulting your health care team as a resource to answer any question that is on your mind is a crucial piece of this,' says Kena Miller, advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP), a clinical nurse educator with Takeda, a company that makes treatments for multiple myeloma and other types of cancer. 'An important role of your health care team is to help you navigate your treatment journey, and so it is critical for people affected by multiple myeloma to feel at ease when speaking with their doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, other mid-level providers and nurses.'
In addition to being armed with questions, having someone accompany you to appointments, help take notes and ask difficult questions of your health care team is equally important. This person may be a caregiver or your own personal advocate - a spouse, friend or other loved one - who supports you throughout your journey.
Some ways to stay organized at your appointments include:
- Bring a complete list of current medications, so that you have the details handy.
- Ask your doctor or nurse to write down any instructions.
- Read through your notes and ask for any clarifications before you leave the doctor's office to ensure you understand everything.
- Schedule your next appointment before you leave.
'Since I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, I have had various treatment protocols and faced bumps in the road along the way that could have been seen as discouraging. But, with my caregiver, we were able to partner with my myeloma specialists, local oncologist and other members of my health care team to discuss my disease and treatment options,' says Chmielewski. 'My caregiver and I also used trusted resources to educate ourselves. In turn, this helped us better face the situation at hand with a positive outlook, and to get to where I am today.'
Financial and editorial support for this content was provided by Takeda. For more information about multiple myeloma and treatment options, visit: www.mymultiplemyeloma.com.
Editor's note: March is Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month, a time to increase public awareness and understanding of this incurable blood cancer and help raise funds for research.