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What to Know About Radiation Therapy for Multiple Myeloma

Feb 5, 2009

Radiation therapy is one way to treat multiple myeloma. This treatment is also called radiotherapy.

It uses X-rays or other particles to control the growth of cancer cells. Radiation is a local treatment. That means it affects the cancer cells only in the area treated.

Radiation does not cure generalized multiple myeloma. Your doctor may suggest it to treat symptoms, such as bone pain. It’s also used to treat a single plasma cell tumor known as a solitary plasmacytoma. You may have radiation at any time in your treatment process. And you may have it along with other types of treatment. If you are going to have a stem cell transplant, you may have total body radiation first in order to prepare your bone marrow to receive the transplant. In that case, you will need to have the radiation done while you are in the hospital.

For this treatment, you see a radiation oncologist. This doctor specializes in the use of radiation to kill cancer cells. This doctor decides how often you need radiation and at what dose. The radiation oncologist and his or her staff create a treatment plan.

Radiation for multiple myeloma comes from a machine that is directed to the outside of your body. The person who gives you the radiation is a radiation therapist. The experience is a lot like getting an X-ray, only it takes longer. 

Potential side effects of radiation therapy

Radiation affects both normal cells and cancer cells. This means it can cause side effects. What they are depends on what part of your body is treated. Common side effects of radiation include fatigue and skin changes. If it is aimed at or near the abdomen, it may also cause nausea or diarrhea. 

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