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Multiple myeloma

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Survival statistics for multiple myeloma

Survival statistics for multiple myeloma are very general estimates and must be interpreted very carefully. Because these statistics are based on the experience of groups of people, they can’t be used to predict a particular person’s chances of survival.

There are many different ways to measure and report cancer survival statistics. Your doctor can explain the statistics for multiple myeloma and what they mean.

Relative survival

Relative survival looks at how likely people with cancer are to survive after their diagnosis compared to people in the general population who do not have cancer but who share similar characteristics (such as age and sex).

In Canada, a 5-year relative survival statistic is reported for multiple myeloma. The 5-year relative survival for multiple myeloma is 43%. This means that, on average, people diagnosed with multiple myeloma are 43% as likely to live 5 years after their diagnosis as people in the general population.

Survival by stage

Survival varies with each stage of multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma often responds to treatment in the beginning, but in most cases the disease comes back (relapses, or recurs). There are many available treatments for multiple myeloma, so when a treatment stops working doctors will try another one. Because multiple myeloma tends to recur with any treatment, it is not considered curable.

Survival statistics by stage of multiple myeloma are reported as median survival. Median survival is the length of time that half of the people with multiple myeloma are still alive after being diagnosed or starting treatment.

There are no specific Canadian statistics available for the different stages of multiple myeloma. The following information comes from a variety of sources and may include statistics from other countries.

Multiple myeloma survival
International Staging System (ISS) stageMedian survival

I

62 months (about 5 years)

II

44 months (about 3 and a half years)

III

29 months (about 2 and a half years)

Other prognostic factors are also used to predict a person’s survival, which can range from less than 1 year to more than 10 years.

The following factors can also affect survival for multiple myeloma.

  • Generally, the earlier multiple myeloma is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome.
  • The number and type of chromosome changes help the doctor make a prognosis.
  • People whose cancer responds well to treatment and goes into complete remission have a better prognosis than people whose cancer does not respond to the initial treatment.

Multiple myeloma survival rates have improved greatly over the last 20 years. This is because doctors have found better ways to test for multiple myeloma so the disease can be diagnosed at an earlier stage. Also, many new and better treatments are now available and have helped to improve survival in people with multiple myeloma.

Questions about survival

People with cancer should talk to their doctor about their prognosis. Prognosis depends on many factors, including:

  • yourmedical history
  • type of cancer
  • stage of the cancer
  • characteristics of the cancer
  • treatments chosen
  • your response to treatment

Only a doctor familiar with these factors can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.

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