You may receive supportive care to prevent or treat myeloma symptoms and therapy side effects. It's used for conditions such as:
- Treating Anemia. In some patients with severe anemia due to the effects of chemotherapy, the administration of an engineered form of the red cell growth factor erythropoietin (EPO) may alleviate the anemia or decrease the need for blood transfusions. However, some studies suggest that correcting anemia too vigorously may increase the risk for blood clots. Also, in some forms of cancer, the use of EPO may be associated with a worse outcome, although this may not be the case in myeloma. Patients should discuss the risks and benefits of EPO therapy with their doctors.
- Stabilizing Damaged Bones. Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are surgical techniques that may be used to help myeloma patients who have back pain. With vertebroplasty, a chemical cement is inserted into the damaged or broken vertebrae through a catheter. Kyphoplasty involves inflating a balloon before stabilizing the area with the chemical cement. These procedures relieve bone compression and may alleviate pain and reduce the amount of pain medication that the patient needs. The use of bisphosphonates (pamidronate [Aredia®] and zoledronic acid [Zometa®]) can help reduce bone pain and the risk of bone fractures. These drugs also prevent the high levels of calcium in the blood that are the result of bone destruction.
- Preventing Infections. Antibiotics and intravenous immunoglobulins may be given to some patients to treat or prevent infections that can develop when the immune system is compromised.
- Maintaining Kidney Function. Drinking adequate amounts of water and other healthy fluids can flush the kidneys and help them filter impurities from the blood.
Some patients may need only supportive care for their myeloma if it's in an early stage, such as smoldering myeloma or asymptomatic myeloma, causing few or no symptoms. In this case, you may receive supportive care to prevent or treat any symptoms, but you won't receive treatment for the myeloma itself during this period. Instead, your doctor closely monitors you. This approach is called watch and wait.