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Multiple Myeloma Treatment, Side Effects and Support

With a multiple myeloma diagnosis, you’ll undoubtedly have questions about the disease, treatment and prognosis. We’re here to help and with you every step of the way from diagnosis to treatment, supporting your medical, physical and emotional needs. 

Our doctors offer the latest advancements in multiple myeloma treatments, including clinical trials (research studies) of new drugs and therapies. Our caring team works with you to make a treatment plan individualized to your needs to give you the best chance at fighting this disease.

How Is Multiple Myeloma Treated?

Multiple myeloma usually cannot be cured. Our focus is on improving your quality of life by decreasing the cancer and its symptoms. Multiple myeloma treatment can help relieve pain, control complications, stabilize your condition and slow progress. 

Your treatment for multiple myeloma will be customized to your particular needs. One or more of the following therapies may be recommended:

Advanced Treatment Options

Historically, multiple myeloma was treated with high-dose chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant. While this can be effective, it also can cause many side effects.

Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center is among a select few cancer centers pioneering new treatment methods to maximize results with minimal impact on your body. We practice the most advanced techniques for stem cell transplantation and offer the latest developments in immunotherapy and targeted therapy. We are actively looking for answers to reduce symptoms and improve the outcome of multiple myeloma and its treatments. 

Talk to your doctor about the latest advancements in multiple myeloma treatment, including clinical trials

Watchful Waiting

If you have multiple myeloma, but are not experiencing symptoms (called smoldering multiple myeloma), you may not need treatment. Your doctor will monitor you closely and if you the disease progresses, you may decide to begin treatment.

Surgery for Multiple Myeloma

Surgery is rarely used to treat multiple myeloma, except with single plasmacytomas or if spinal cord compression causes paralysis, severe muscle weakness or numbness.

Side effects of surgery: Pain, nausea, infection, bleeding, scarring.

Radiation Therapy for Multiple Myeloma

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation can treat bones causing pain that haven’t responded to other treatment. It’s also used to treat solitary plasmacytomas.

Side effects of radiation therapy: Fatigue, skin problems, pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting. Side effects go away after treatment is finished.


Chemotherapy drugs to destroy cancer cells through the bloodstream, reaching all areas of the body. Because chemotherapy also damages normal cells, there are many side effects. 

Side effects of chemotherapy: Hair loss, mouth sores, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, low blood counts, pain, infection, anemia, bruising, bleeding. Many side effects can be managed with medication and go away after treatment is finished.


Corticosteroids are steroids and can help control inflammation.

Side effects of corticosteroids: High blood sugar, increased appetite, weight gain, problems sleeping, irritability or hyperactivity, infections, weakened bones. Side effects go away after treatment is finished.


Immunotherapy or biological therapy drugs are aimed at enhancing your immune system to fight myeloma cells.

Side effects of biological therapy: Blood clots (taking aspirin or a blood thinner is recommended), flu-like symptoms, fatigue, difficulty breathing and headache.

Targeted Therapy

Using drugs to target specific molecules (such as proteins) on or inside cancer cells, targeted therapy helps stop the growth and spread of cancer cells and limit harm to normal cells.

Side effects of targeted therapy: Drowsiness, constipation, diarrhea, nerve pain, infection, cough, skin rash

Bone marrow transplant

A bone marrow transplant, or stem cell transplant, replaces diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow. Bone marrow transplants are either allogeneic (donated) or autologous (patient’s own). Before a bone marrow transplant, you will have chemotherapy to destroy the diseased bone marrow.

Common side effects of bone marrow transplant: Infection, bleeding, anemia, graft-versus-host disease, veno-occlusive disease, sore mouth, nausea, vomiting, skin and hair problems, pain. Most symptoms are caused by chemotherapy or other therapies, and go away after treatment is finished

Support for Multiple Myeloma

Having a strong support system is important to successful treatment. At Banner MD Anderson, your multiple myeloma care team includes experienced doctors, surgeons, oncologists and transplant specialists, as well as highly skilled support staff such nurses, physicians assistants, dietitians and social workers. Your individualized treatment plan includes our Integrative Oncology Program offering services such as massage, acupuncture and support groups.

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