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What Is the Life Expectancy for Multiple Myeloma?

Catching multiple myeloma early might lead to a longer life expectancy.
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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 05 April 2014
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The life expectancy for multiple myeloma cannot be precisely determined because several factors contribute to the equation. Generally speaking, most multiple myeloma patients live on average about five to eight years, depending on when the cancer is diagnosed, the stage of cancer at diagnosis, and whether treatment proves effective. A study by the European Cancer Registry shows that one-third of multiple myeloma patients lived longer than five years.

A longer life expectancy might occur if the disease is caught early. This type of cancer becomes progressively worse over time because cancerous cells tend to spread throughout the body. Multiple myeloma means tumors are present in more than one area of bone marrow, commonly in the spine, skull, ribs, and hips.

The disease is considered a rare non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and represents approximately 1% of all cancers diagnosed. It develops in white blood cells, called plasma cells, generated in bone marrow. These blood cells make up the body’s immune system, which fights off infection. As the bone marrow transports diseased plasma cells throughout the body’s bones, it makes multiple myeloma difficult to stop.

The life expectancy for multiple myeloma may improve with a bone marrow transplant via donor cells. This treatment might be successful if the disease is diagnosed early and cancer has not spread beyond one area in the bone marrow. During later stages of the disease, treatment addresses symptoms and prolonging the patient's life through drugs.

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Symptoms of multiple myeloma include bone pain, especially in the spinal region. The disorder might also produce anemia that causes patients to become weak and tired. Bones might thin and become brittle, leading to fractures, or excess calcium might build up in the bones. Some people with this disease suffer headaches, confusion, and vision problems because insufficient blood is carried to the skin and extremities.

Chemotherapy and radiation represent typical treatments to kill off cancerous blood cells, but unfortunately, healthy blood cells are often killed as well. Patients might be given antibiotics to curb infection, since the normal function of antibodies is disrupted. Other patients may receive periodic blood transfusions to address anemia.

People over the age of 60 face an increased risk of multiple myeloma, which is estimated at five to six cases for every 100,000 people. The disease is diagnosed through urine or blood tests, or a bone marrow biopsy. Tumors or signs of osteoporosis might also show up in X-ray images.

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anon325062
Post 12

I have so many unanswered questions. My mom just got diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Are there resources were we can get help for this? My mom has no insurance and she has deteriorated so fast. They say it has metastasized already. We cannot start on chemotherapy because it is very expensive. Is there help out there? My mom is only 55.

anon313480
Post 11

There are different kinds of MM and some have better survival chances than others.

This is long. It tells my story of the father of my two young children (under 10) diagnosed 15 months ago with MM. It's also a cry to please seek help, and to prepare everything you can. I hope my story will help other families do not have to go through this.

For MM deletion 17, treatment for this aggressive cancer is really difficult. They have made progress... but. He was lucky he had good insurance. I don't know what his doctor told him. He was convinced he could live another five or six years. I asked two friend doctors to honestly tell me what his chances were, and they told me 18 months. This disease and his belief in survival ruined my family.

My immediate requests when I learned this was to go to grievance family therapy and to do estate planning. They were met with, "How dare you? I'm not dead yet.” None of the chemos worked over the next months. He got thin, lost his hair and was unable to take care of the kids for very long periods. He was on blood thinners and had more chemo. He was not a candidate for the anticipated stem cell transplant, so exactly a year later, he went through an experimental treatment, with according to him, excellent chances. I was terrified. I begged him yet again to please help the children and as responsible parents to have a plan for the kids' sake in place. again He was convinced it would either help or not. If not, then he would still have time. Before treatment, he was almost his old self again. No chemo, not sick, his hair grew back. He believed therapy or estate planning meant giving up on his disease. He wanted to fight. It made him mad if I tried to talk about therapy or estate planning.

One year later, he tarted the new treatment, and within a week, his kidneys shut totally down, never functioned again. They released him. No one can tell me what went wrong and how bad it was by then. I no clue what I had to tell our kids. He was still on dialysis, but was going to "get better.” Three weeks later, we learned he was already on his deathbed, and he died a week later, 15 months after diagnosis. his children never got a chance to see their dad in those last months.

We are hurting on every level. I had to tell my kids, that even though he was supposed to get better, he now was really really sick and would not get better. By then, I had put them myself in therapy and that's not it, yet. Due to bad estate planning, the children also pay for it. This is a nightmare with no end in sight. I do not understand how or what the doctors told him that he believed he still had years left? I believe grief therapy is very important.

I know it is hard to be the one with cancer, but it is very hard for the people next to you, too. They are the ones left behind eventually. I can't change what has happened; I accept it for what it is. I cry for my kids, however. Their dad is suddenly gone and because of bad estate planning, there is nothing in place for them. Maybe years from now, they might not even allowed to go in "their” home, get "their” clothes, not even their birthday presents they got from their dad before he started treatment. It's not theirs anymore. Great. How do I explain that to them? In the meantime, their siblings, who never lived there, and are adults do stay there and use their bedrooms.

Please, if you are diagnosed, please go to grief therapy. It will help you and your family to become closer and cope with the feelings you have. It's offered within treatment. Family is the most important thing. Please have a will in place, update everything and make sure there are at least some liquid assets available, a POD account or a joint account. Those do not need to go through a lawyer or probate. Make sure what is in the will is executable. In our case, it says "equally divided," plus he must "strictly follow the document" (the lawyer prepared this document). Well, equal division became very complicated, and it will take years to resolve this.

Make specific bequests or ask your love ones to identify ahead what they would want, so that everyone knows to not get into this situation. If you have life insurance please update the beneficiaries (his ex-wife of 14 years ago was still on it, and his two youngest children were not added). I hope I can prevent another disaster like this. Please take care of yourself and family, so if you may pass that they can actually grieve instead of worrying how to get through the next month. Don't let the attorney or bank prolong or eat up unnecessary fees.

I'm 100 percent sure their father did not want or anticipate this, but in the end, it's the sad reality for us.

Having cancer is bad enough. Please go to therapy and do your estate planning ahead. In fact, I would advise any family to do this, so your family left behind won't have to worry about that. Coping with the loss of a family member is already really hard.

anon299256
Post 10

My mother is 80 years and she is suffering from Multiple myeloma, but now the reports shows it is under morphological remission. Now she has been suffering from cold and cough and light fever for a week. What do I do?

anon293360
Post 9

My dad is now in hospital with kidney failure. He was 46 when he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. He's now 53 and starting dialysis. We are very lucky. We thought we had lost him at the weekend but he has pulled through.

MM has robbed him of his health, his future and his independence. He is disabled as his spine collapsed. I truly feel for any other family going through this.

anon262480
Post 8

My mom has been battling with MM. For two years and 10 months, she has been on dialysis and she was diagnosed with MM when she was 57.

Today, the doctor told her that they can't do anything and she is off chemotherapy. He told her to live her life, and she cried and cried. She has broken several ribs just from coughing, about three months ago she broke her hip. Her ammonia levels keep going up because she doesn't have bowel movements so she has to take lactulose to clean her out, and she doesn't talk or smile anymore. There are so many issues she is dealing with.

She has stage 3 MM, and was given 29 months to live two years and 10 months ago. This is a very hard thing to deal with. I can't take it anymore. If I'm not crying, I'm numb, I scream and then there are times when I don't make a sound. I stare into space with a blank look and sometimes I laugh and laugh until I cry.

This disease has ruined our lives. Eventually I will need to see a therapist because it's too much. If it were up to me I wish no one has to go through this ever.

julies
Post 7

My brother was told a few months ago that he had something called smoldering multiple myeloma. He was not having any symptoms at all, but went in for his annual physical, and they discovered it when he had some abnormal blood work results.

His doctors have told him this is a slow growing type of myeloma and have not recommended any treatment right now. He is fortunate that this was found as early as it was. Right now he has to go back every 3 months for blood work so they can keep an eye on any changes.

LisaLou
Post 6

Anytime someone is told they have a disease like this, there are so many questions that go through your mind. I had an aunt that went through several years of multiple myeloma treatment and this disease eventually took her life.

It was really hard watching the family go through this process. Even though there are so many medical advances today, there are still too many people who lose their lives to these scary diseases.

It also make you very aware of all the research that is being done to try and find a cure for something like this. My aunt was in her 60's when they found this, and it still felt like she should have had many more years to live.

SarahSon
Post 5

Just like any disease, a diagnosis of multiple myeloma and its life expectancy prognosis is different for each individual.

A few months ago I found out that a girl I knew in high school was diagnosed with this and she is only in her mid 40's. She still has one son who is in high school and this has been very hard on them.

The whole community has been very supportive and have tried to raise money to help with their medical bills. By the time she received her multiple myeloma diagnosis, she was only given about 3 years to live.

Moldova
Post 4

@Crispety - I think that it is hard to really understand the multiple myeloma prognosis life expectancy because there are so many factors to consider.

I don’t doctors can really give a person an estimated time frame because some people do better than others. I know that cancers tend to be more aggressive in children than it is in older people.

I remember when I was in eighth grade a boy in my class was diagnosed with leukemia and even after his sister gave him a bone marrow transplant he still died.

The advances in childhood leukemia have improved dramatically since them. I think that with medical advances hopeful all of these bone cancers like myeloma will have some sort of cure or at least a way of containing the disease so that it won't spread.

Crispety
Post 3

@Latte31- I can answer that for you. I read that it is. In fact if a family member has the condition a person has four times the chance of developing the disease.

I also read that according to the multiple myeloma research foundation African American men over the age of 65 who are overweight have the highest risk of developing this disease. They say that age and weight are the biggest factors because multiple myeloma really doesn’t tend to strike anyone under 65.

latte31
Post 2

Is multiple myeloma hereditary?

icecream17
Post 1

I read that about 10% of patients that have multiple myeloma cancer also develop kidney problems that require dialysis.

I read that if you start to feel really tired or develop pain in the ribs or even spine you may have some of the early symptoms of multiple myeloma bone cancer.

They also say if you have sinus or urinary infections or suffer from pain whenever you are resting or moving around or have pain and swelling in the bones you could also have this disorder.

Having to catch your breath consistently also contributes to multiple myeloma cancer. There is a multiple myeloma foundation that offers support groups for people suffering with this condition as well as an online forum for nurses treating people with this condition.

I think that the more information that you have regarding the condition the better it will be to treat it. I remember when my mother was diagnosed with cancer; I wanted to find out everything about her condition. It did help me understand the treatment options available to her.

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