Follow-up after treatment for multiple myeloma
Multiple myeloma is hard to cure and often comes back (relapses, or recurs). Your treatment may stop for a while but you will likely need treatment again when the disease relapses. Follow-up helps your healthcare team decide when you need more treatment and will monitor (watch for) any side effects of treatment. Follow-up for multiple myeloma is often shared among the cancer specialists (oncologists), the hematologist (doctor who specializes in blood disorders) and your family doctor. Your healthcare team will work with you to decide on follow-up care to meet your needs.
Don’t wait until your next scheduled appointment to report any new symptoms and symptoms that don’t go away. Tell your healthcare team if you have:
- bone pain
- signs of an infection, such as redness
- leg swelling
- numbness, tingling or weakness in the feet or legs
Schedule for follow-up visits
Follow-up visits for multiple myeloma are usually scheduled every 1–3 months.
During follow-up visits
During a follow-up visit, your healthcare team will usually ask questions about the side effects of treatment and how you’re coping.
Your doctor may do a physical exam to check for lumps or tenderness of the bones.
Tests are often part of follow-up care. They help your doctor to find out how well your treatment is working or if the cancer looks like it may be coming back (called a relapse). Not all follow-up tests will be done each time you have a follow-up visit. You may have:
- blood tests to check blood cell counts, M-protein levels (the abnormal type of immunoglobulin) and other chemicals in the blood
- urine tests to check protein levels in the urine
- bone marrow biopsy to check the number of plasma cells in the bone marrow
- x-rays, MRIs or CT scans to check the bones for breaks, areas of weakness or signs of a tumour
If multiple myeloma relapses, your healthcare team will assess you to determine the best treatment options.
Questions to ask about follow-up
To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about follow-up.
An imaging technique that uses a magnetic field to produce pictures of areas inside the body. A contrast medium may be injected into the body to make structures and organs show up clearly on the image.
Doctors use MRI to make detailed images of organs and tissues in the body.
Also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).
An imaging technique that uses a computer to put a series of x-ray images together to create a 3-dimensional picture of organs, tissues, bones and blood vessels inside the body. A contrast medium may be injected to make organs and structures show up clearly on the x-ray images.
The image produced is called a CT scan.
Also called computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan.
I’m extremely grateful to the Canadian Cancer Society for funding my research with an Innovation Grant.
Great progress has been made
Some cancers, such as thyroid and testicular, have survival rates of over 90%. Other cancers, such as pancreatic, brain and esophageal, continue to have very low survival rates.