Can You Die from Multiple Myeloma?

Ask a Doctor

One of my good friends at work has received a diagnosis of multiple myeloma. I don’t want to pry, but I’m worried about her. I know nothing about the disease. Can you die from it? What’s the life expectancy of a person with multiple myeloma?

Doctor's Response

Yes, unfortunately. Your friend has a 70 percent chance of dying within five years, whatever the treatment.

The outlook for myeloma, which is an accumulation of malfunctioning or "cancerous" blood plasma cells, has somewhat improved over the past few decades as treatment has improved. However, the overall 5-year survival rate is about 30%, and nearly 11,000 people in the United States die of myeloma per year.

After primary therapy for myeloma is complete, all appropriate diagnostic tests, including bone marrow aspiration and biopsy, are repeated to determine how well the therapy worked.

  • The results of these tests will determine whether a remission has occurred.
  • If the patient is in remission, the oncologist will recommend a schedule of regular testing and follow-up visits to monitor the remission and identify early relapse.
  • Maintaining constant vigil via follow-up exams and tests is no less important than the therapy itself.

For cases in which myeloma does not go into complete remission after treatment, or if it recurs after treatment, the hematologist/oncologist will likely recommend further treatment.

For more information, please read our full medical article on multiple myeloma.

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References
Medically reviewed by Jay B. Zatzkin, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Medical Oncology

REFERENCES:

"Clinical features, laboratory manifestations, and diagnosis of multiple myeloma"
UpToDate.com

"Overview of the management of multiple myeloma"
UpToDate.com

Shah, D. "Multiple Myeloma Treatment & Management." Medscape.com. Feb. 5, 2016. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/204369-treatment#d7>..