MULTIPLE MYELOMA LIFE EXPECTANCY
Myeloma is the fourteenth leading cause of cancer death in the United States. According to SEER Data & Software, the number of deaths was 3.3 per 100,000 men and women per year based on 2011-2015 deaths.
Life expectancy means how long a person, in this case with multiple myeloma, might expect to live once treatment begins. Doctors also reference survival rate or median survival.Median survival is found using data from a large group of people with multiple myeloma. This figure is the amount of time between first treatment and death.
*Scientists find the median by looking at half of the people in the study. This means that it is approximate and is not an exact prediction of life expectancy.
The American Cancer Society guidelines for the life expectancy of people with multiple myeloma are:
These are the numbers presented, however there are many things you can do in your Myeloma Journey that affect life expectancy.
Factors that Affect Overall Survival
Your Myeloma Doctor
It is absolutely essential you seek out a Myeloma specialist and know how much this influences your quality of treatment. It does not matter how much you like a hematologist/oncologist or what degrees they have, because if they do not see 100 myeloma patients or more a year they are simply NOT QUALIFIED to treat this very complex disease. Myeloma experts understand the latest development in myeloma therapy and the nuances of personalized care. For general oncologists, it is virtually impossible to stay up-to-date on a cancer with accelerated, rapid-fire advances while trying to treat a wide range of cancers (prostate, breast, colon, etc.).
The Mayo Clinic performed a study to see whether treatment at centers with significant myeloma expertise mattered to myeloma patients’ long-term survival. The study authors concluded that patients who were treated for MM at higher-volume facilities had a lower risk of mortality compared with those who were treated at lower-volume facilities. Both the Mayo Clinic Study and a study at the University of North Carolina concluded a higher life expectancy rate for those patients treated by Myeloma specialists.
It’s not fair that we have become our own best advocates, but we do. In the past, a cancer patient may have gone to the doctor to be treated and return home, never asking questions. But in the last few decades, the way in which patients receive care has radically changed. Patients are waking up to the fact that they will live longer if they become more involved advocates for themselves.
There are many resources available through MyelomaCrowd to encourage patient self-advocacy. Patients can join online groups or attend meetings, read articles on the Myeloma Crowd or watch Patient Power videos to learn more about myeloma. They can ask about their own type of myeloma, find a myeloma specialist who is an expert in the disease and consider clinical trials at every stage of treatment using the HealthTree App.
Advocating for yourself isn’t easy when the diagnosis is a complicated disease like multiple myeloma, but taking the reins can mean more years of life, so it is worth the effort.
Not all myeloma is the same, and every case requires a specialized plan. Every patient is unique and knowing more about your disease will help you become an engaged partner in your care. When it comes to genetics, you need to know about high-risk genetic profiles in order to know about how to treat them.
- For example, loss of a piece of chromosome 17 is linked to a poorer outcome.
- Another genetic abnormality that predicts a poor outcome is an exchange of material from chromosomes 4 and 14. This is called a translocation.
- A translocation involving chromosomes 14 and 16 is also linked to a poorer outcome.
These 3 specific chromosome changes are considered high risk.
Immune System Status
The status of your immune system is directly correlated to myeloma progression, and staying informed and educated will help you best care for your system.
The immune system is made up of various types of white blood cells . All blood cells derive from blood-cell making stem cells in the bone marrow.
T cells (T lymphocytes) originate in the bone marrow but mature in the thymus, a gland beneath the breastbone or sternum. They are a type white blood cell responsible for helping the immune system adapt. T cells are reduced in number and function in patients with myeloma, contributing to the immune suppression that is characteristic of the disease.
Because myeloma is a disease of an immune system cell (the plasma cell), its growth affects the whole immune system. Myeloma suppresses the immune response as a whole, reducing the number of normal antibodies and affecting all the cells that would patrol for and attack abnormal cells. Regulatory T cells, NK cells, and macrophages can no longer perform their functions.
“Immuno-oncology,” the treatment of cancer with therapies that trig-
ger cells in the immune system, is a vital and growing field of research. Immunotherapies have already been approved for myeloma, and several more are being tested in clinical trials. Among these are monoclonal antibodies, dendritic cell therapies, vaccine therapies, engineered T cells, and virotherapies.
Being your own advocate and using tools like HealthTree to find these clinical trials to pertaining to the immune response will help increase life expectancy. Diet and exercise are also correlated to immune system strength. People who eat more fruits, vegetables and plant-based foods and who avoid excess animal fats or processed foods generally have greater immunity. See more on diet and immunity here.
The blood creatinine level shows how healthy the kidneys are. Kidneys eliminate this chemical from the body. When they are damaged by the monoclonal immunoglobulin, blood creatinine levels rise, predicting a worse outlook.
Age is also important. In the studies of the international staging system, older people with myeloma do not live as long.
Overall health can affect the outlook of someone with myeloma. Poorly controlled health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, for example, can predict a worse prognosis.
As Myeloma Patients, it is vital we continue making positive lifestyle decisions to prioritize health, personal care and wellbeing, and recognize the impact of even the smallest choices during our treatment. We have provided the HealthTree tool to monitor and stay informed on your best possible treatment options and provided the Myeloma Coaching Program for your convenience. Find out what treatments have the highest efficacy ratings for you today and talk about it with your doctor. Every step counts!
We encourage you to read these resources: