Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells, usually by keeping the cancer cells from growing, dividing, and making more cells. A chemotherapy regimen (schedule) usually consists of a specific number of cycles over a defined period, wherein the doctor prescribes different drug combinations that can be taken orally or injected through the bloodstream.
Combination chemotherapy has been used successfully for the treatment of myeloma. Cyclophosphamide (available as a generic drug), doxorubicin (available as a generic drug), melphalan (Alkeran, Evomela), etoposide (available as a generic drug), cisplatin (available as a generic drug), carmustine (BiCNU), and bendamustine (Bendeka) are examples of chemotherapy drugs used in specific situations as per need and after doctor recommendation. For example, melphalan is most commonly used when a bone marrow transplantation is part of the treatment plan. A high dose of melphalan is used to suppress the myeloma for a long time, and the patient’s bone marrow cells are used to recover from this treatment.
Depending on the individual’s health and dosage the chemotherapy side effects may include fatigue, risk of infection, nausea and vomiting, hair loss, loss of appetite, and diarrhoea or constipation. Other side effects include peripheral neuropathy (tingling or numbness in feet or hands), blood clotting problems, and low blood counts. These side effects usually subside after the treatment process is completed. Occasionally an allergic reaction such as skin rash may occur, and the treatments have to be discontinued for a while. The length of chemotherapy treatment varies from patient to patient and is continued until the myeloma is well controlled.