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Multiple Myeloma Life Expectancy – Who, What, How and Why?

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What is the average life expectancy of multiple myeloma patients? How do you define long-term survival?  What’s more important to you quantity or quality of life?

Despite a long and growing list of FDA approved chemotherapy regimens for multiple myeloma (MM), the average five-year survival rate for MM is about 50% and less than 10% of MMers live for more than 10 years after diagnosis according to the research linked and excerpted below. Let’s face it-long-term life expectancy is possible for only a minority of MM patients.

For all the talk of improved overall survival of MMers, I can’t look at these statistics and not wonder why newly diagnosed myeloma patients would focus solely on conventional therapy for their treatment without learning more about long-term MM survival.

My apologies- let me first explain how you, the newly diagnosed MM patient, can make a substantial jump in your life expectancy.

Work with, or at least consult with an oncologist who specializes in multiple myeloma. According to careful research, myeloma specialists provide much longer life expectancy statistics that general hematologist-oncologists.

This is not a slight to whomever you are currently working with (if he/she is not a MM specialist.) MM is a rare cancer incorporating less than 2% of all cancer diagnoses in the United States annually. Further, there are over 100 different types of cancer.

Like any profession, if you work with, treat, study, etc. the same thing day-in, day-out, you will get better at it.

Right behind overall survival aka life expectancy, I have to wonder about quality-of-life aka how the newly-diagnosed MMer feels day-in and day-out.  In other words, if a newly diagnosed MMer can beat the odds by living longer than five years, he or she will experience a host of short, long-term and late-stage side-effects such as joint pain, chemobrain, peripheral neuropathy, bone pain and more.

How does a newly diagnosed MMer enjoy a longer life expectancy as well as enjoy a reasonable quality of life while doing so? How does a newly diagnosed MM patient reach long-term survival?

Living with MM since early 1994 has taught me that

  1. You have a lot to learn- MM is a complicated, often aggressive cancer
  2. Oncology is an opaque business- MM patients need to know what to ask their oncology team and know how to manage them- from day one.
  3. Lastly, MM management is not conventional or non-conventional. It is not natural or toxic. It is not one or the other. MM patients must take the best of both traditional and non-traditional worlds in order to manage their MM for decades, not just years.

In short, combine conventional (FDA approved) with evidence-based non-conventional.

Have you been diagnosed with MM? What are your symptoms? What therapies are you considering? Scroll down the page, post a question or comment and I will reply to you ASAP.

Thank you,

David Emerson

  • MM Survivor
  • MM Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

Recommended Reading:

Why Do People Beat the Average Myeloma Life Expectancy Prognosis? Or How To Improve Your Multiple Myeloma Survival Rate!

“I updated this post more than two years ago, and it has been very helpful to many in the myeloma patient community  One thing has become very clear to me, the pace of change and progress for myeloma has become exponential.   This is a very good thing!  We have had 4 drugs approved for myeloma since 2015 (two are new classes of drugs)…”

Stem Cell Transplantation Remains Standard of Care in Multiple Myeloma

“Patients with multiple myeloma who are eligible for stem cell transplantation should still be considered for high-dose therapy (HDT) even in the novel agent era, according to the authors of a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Oncology

The researchers examined phase 3 randomized clinical trials. The five trials that they evaluated included more than 3,000 patients. Progression-free survival (PFS) was the primary outcome and overall survival (OS), complete response (CR) and treatment-related mortality were secondary outcomes

“ASCT was associated with superior PFS with minimal toxic effects compared with non-transplant-based therapy…” However, none of the transplant-based approaches were associated with superior OS, he added…

Long-term survival in multiple myeloma

“The survival of multiple myeloma patients has improved very significantly over the last decade. Still, median overall survival is inferior to 5 years. A small proportion of patients survive longer than 10 years. In this paper, we discuss four cases illustrating the nonhomogeneous clinical presentation and evolution of this subset of patients. Surprisingly, these long survivors do not always have deep responses and some require frequent treatments, which include autologous stem cell transplantation and novel drugs…

Toxicities associated with different treatments impact in the quality of life. Neurological, hematopoietic, and cardiac side effects are the most common toxicities in patients under prolonged treatment. They are associated with the broad use of alkylating agents, corticosteroids and, more recently, proteasome inhibitors and immunomodulators.

Also, survivors of MM are confronted with nonspecific, cancer treatment-related long-term symptoms, most commonly fatigue, sexual dysfunction, arthralgia, and a high risk of second primary malignancies (SPM) . High-dose chemotherapy with autologous stem cell support became widely used since 1990s in fit patients under 65 years of age…

With the aim of examining some factors that influence long-term survivorship, we present and discuss four different clinical cases of long-term survivors with MM, including both transplanted and nontransplanted patients with a variety of comorbidities and different treatments flow. These four patients diagnosed with MM for more than 10 years (13, 18, 19, and 20 years) were selected from the authors’ outpatient practice because they were alive and are representative of the true story and heterogeneity of MM worldwide…




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