I published on this subject more than a year ago, and it has been very helpful to many in the myeloma patient community. I have provided some updates and hope that it helps to assist you in your myeloma journey.
Part 1 - Disease Dependent
Some people are just plain lucky and are given a form of myeloma that is not that aggressive. In other words they have myeloma, but it happens to be smoldering myeloma. This form of the disease can be present in the patient but not show any outward symptoms. It can remain in this mode for 5, 10, or even 20 years.
The age of the patient is very important, in that you are 2 times more likely to survive if you were diagnosed at 49 years of age or less. The average age of the typical myeloma patient is 70. You can read more on this subject if you CLICK HERE.
Some people may have an active disease but do not have any of the negative prognostic indicators. These include, but are not limited to, deletion of chromosome 17p and translocation of 4;14 or 14;16 or 14;20. Your myeloma specialist will run the FISH test or other genetic tests to determine if you have any of these negative prognostic indicators. If you are considered high risk, the life expectancy is just half of the current average, or just 2 years. You can read more about high risk multiple myeloma if you CLICK HERE.
The sensitivity of the disease to treatment is also important. My myeloma seemed to be very sensitive to the combination of Cytoxan, Thalamid and Dexamethasone and put me into remission very quickly. Some people might have the same experience with Revlimid, Velcade, or Dex, or any combination of these drugs. If the disease comes back, as it often does, the re-application of the same regimen may continue to work for years. I know one patient who has taken Thalomid for years as his only treatment and remains in remission. This is working well for him.
And of course if the average is 4 years, half of the people will invariably beat the average.
I am sure there are other disease factors, however, what I will discuss now is the part of disease control that you may or may not have more control over.
Part 2 - Quality of Care
There are some elements that you may or may not have much control over, the first of which is the availability of insurance. If you do not have insurance or have no access to care, the average life expectancy is less than one year. However, Medicare has a Compassionate Allowance Program where you can be approved in less than two weeks if you go to your local office and can show that you will not live without care. To see the program CLICK HERE. The Affordable Care Act may provide an option for the 15% who are not insured, and Medicare, Medicaid, and drug company assistance programs are also available. In addition, there are other programs which can provide assistance listed on the bottom of the home page, to view CLICK HERE. Unfortunately without care, like people who need dialysis (which is always covered by Medicare), you will have below average life expectancy.
Myeloma patients seldom die from myeloma, they die from the complications from myeloma. The number one complication is pneumonia, and others include infections, kidney failure, anemia, etc. This, therefore, brings me to the realization that supportive care for the treatment of the many complications of this disease may just be as important as the cancer treatment itself. Or a great Defense(supportive care) is as important as the Offense(cancer therapy). MD Anderson and Mayo Clinic emphasize supportive care in their programs, UAMS actually has a Director of Supportive Care in their myeloma program, and Dr. Elias Anaissie, the Director of the Myeloma Program at the University of Cincinnati Cancer Center, has an extensive background in supportive care. Dr. Anaissie has published a well written example of an exceptional supportive care model. You can read this publication if you CLICK HERE. To read my blog post on supportive care CLICK HERE.
I also think the quality of care that you receive can also be affected by the knowledge of the patient, and this can be obtained by doing your research on finding the best approaches to care by looking at the work of the best myeloma specialists on-line, and by going to great sites as listed in the Resource Section of www.myelomasurvival.com. To find out how to get educated about multiple myeloma CLICK HERE. In addition, joining a support group of the International Myeloma Foundation or the LLS (Leukemia, Lymphoma, and Myeloma Society) will provide more great information to improve your life expectancy. I have found that the average life expectancy of most of these support groups far out-performs the average. Knowledge is power! Additional information on the benefits of support group membership can be found at if you CLICK HERE.
There are 80,000 multiple myeloma patients in the USA, and if we can move the average from 4 years to 10 years of life expectancy with the myeloma specialists, we could save 80,000 times 6, or 480,000 years of LIFE. Many times more if we include the entire world. You all can help by getting this message out to the myeloma patient community though Facebook and Twitter. Everyone knows someone who has myeloma or may have a friend or family member that can be helped by this information. With your help we can "SAVE LIFE"!
Good luck and God Bless your Myeloma Journey/ firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on multiple myeloma CLICK HERE and you can follow me on twitter at: https://twitter.com/grpetersen1