Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Multiple Myeloma Recurrence

Go into your appointment prepared.

Multiple myeloma, the second most common blood cancer, is considered an incurable disease. That means, unfortunately, that even after extensive treatment or remission, the cancer can recur. The good news: Recurrent myeloma—sometimes also referred to as relapsed multiple myeloma—is a highly treatable disease. Advances in genomics and immunotherapy in particular, have created new options for treatment.

If your multiple myeloma has recurred, take a deep breath. Then, prepare to meet with your healthcare provider. Discussions of treatment can be both emotional and overwhelming, so use these question as a guide to get started. One last reminder: With relapsed multiple myeloma, as with any serious disease or condition, it’s a good idea to get a second opinion. Consider meeting with another doctor to review treatment options—more information can help clarify your path forward.

9 Questions to Discuss With Your Doctor

  1. Can you explain my laboratory test results? Your healthcare provider is an expert in interpreting and understanding pathology reports. Have your doctor walk you through the results, explaining what everything means. You deserve to have a thorough understanding.
  2. Do I need to be treated? Keep in mind that not all relapsed multiple myeloma merits aggressive treatment—or even any treatment at all. When the relapse is indolent—that is, slow to develop and not currently problematic—healthcare providers may opt to simply monitor the cancer, without any treatment.
  3. What are the available treatment options and what do you recommend for me? There are many treatment options available for multiple myeloma. Your healthcare provider’s recommendations will likely be influenced by your original treatment effectiveness and your response to it. Ask your doctor for insight into the following options, including the benefits and risks of:
    • Chemotherapy and other drugs, including targeted or biological drug therapies
    • Stem cell transplant
    • Radiation therapy
    • Steroids
    • Surgery
  4. How are my options different or similar from my original treatment? You’ve been through treatment before, so you likely have some sense of your options. Ask your doctor if you should repeat the same treatment plan, or opt for something new.
  5. Are there any clinical trials available that make sense for me? Clinical trials offer access to new medications, for a disease where treatment strategies have shifted greatly in recent years. Inquire about clinical trials: Ask if your doctor knows any that are a good fit for you, where they are located, where you can find out more information and get details on the costs.
  6. What side effects can I expect from your recommended course of treatment? If your doctor has a treatment recommendation—or narrows the list down to a few options—inquire about impact of the treatment. For instance, will you be able to work? Will your sex life, exercise routine or other aspects of your daily life be affected? Make sure to inquire about both short- and long-term effects.
  7. What’s the treatment goal? Ask your doctor if the intent behind the treatment is for you to enter remission again or to reduce symptoms and help you feel better.
  8. What’s my prognosis? Your healthcare provider won’t be able to answer this question in a single sentence. That’s because many factors—including the stage of the disease, your general health, your response to treatment in the past and clinical and laboratory findings and test results. Understanding your overall prognosis can help steer your decisions around treatment.
  9. Is there anything else I should be asking or considering? You are deeply familiar with one case of multiple myeloma: Your own. Your healthcare provider, however, has treated many. Rely on your doctor’s expertise, and make sure to get as much information as possible during your appointment. This question is a great way to cover your bases, and make sure your healthcare provider shares any and all insight.

Medically reviewed in November 2018.

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