Surgery is rarely recommended for treating multiple myeloma, which is cancer that develops in white blood cells (lymphocytes). White blood cells are plasma cells in the bone marrow that produce antibodies to help the body fight infection. When cancerous plasma cells grow uncontrollably, they can accumulate in the bone marrow and crowd out healthy cells, and also potentially produce bone tumors called plasmacytomas. If a patient is diagnosed with a single plasma cell tumor, surgical removal may be possible, but surgery is not generally advised for treating multiple myeloma, which occurs when more than one plasmacytoma is present.
Unless a patient is experiencing symptoms like bone pain or frequent infections, multiple myeloma treatment may not be necessary. Because it is not possible to remove multiple myeloma through surgery, most forms of treatment are focused on providing symptom relief and slowing the progression of the condition. Multiple myeloma can sometimes develop very slowly, and in those cases, if the patient is not experiencing symptoms, he or she is monitored on an ongoing basis to determine if the condition is progressing.
Treatment Options for Multiple Myeloma
Some treatment options for symptom relief or slowing the cancer’s progression include:
- Biological therapy
- Targeted drug therapy
In some multiple myeloma cases, a bone marrow transplant may be recommended, which can be considered a type of surgery. This procedure attempts to replace cancerous bone marrow with healthy bone marrow as follows:
- All of the bone marrow in a patient’s body is destroyed through high doses of chemotherapy and sometimes radiation therapy.
- Healthy bone marrow is harvested from an adult donor whose tissue has been determined to closely match that of the patient.
- The donor marrow is administered to the patient via injection into a vein to replace the destroyed bone marrow.
Additionally, if a patient’s spleen has become enlarged due to multiple myeloma, a surgery called a splenectomy may be recommended to remove the spleen to address myeloma-related anemia and other complications.
Moffitt Cancer Center’s Approach to Multiple Myeloma Surgery
At Moffitt Cancer Center, multiple myeloma patients receive highly individualized treatment and have access to the most advanced options available, including novel biological therapies. As a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, we perform groundbreaking research studies and conduct promising clinical trials that continue to raise the bar for the treatment and support of all cancer patients. For instance, our scientists and clinicians are investigating exciting new ways to perform autologous bone marrow transplants (through which a patient’s own stem cells can be used in place of a donor’s).
Medically reviewed by Jason Brayer, MD, Malignant Hematology.
Contact Moffitt to learn more about innovative treatment options for multiple myeloma, including surgery to remove an enlarged spleen. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online.