Last modified: 12 January 2013
Frequently Asked Questions
How common is multiple myeloma?
Multiple myeloma is the second most frequent form of malignant bone marrow disease and belongs to the non-Hodgkin group of lymphomas. It is a relatively rare form of cancer that accounts for roughly one percent of all cancers and roughly two percent of all deaths from cancer. According to estimates by the European Network of Cancer Registries, there are 21,420 new cases of multiple myeloma in Europe each year and around 15,000 deaths from this illness. It is estimated that 60,000 people in Europe are currently living with this disease (UICC).
Which groups are most frequently affected?
Most patients with multiple myeloma are over 60. This leads to the conclusion that the probability of falling ill with this form of cancer increases with age. Nevertheless, many younger people also suffer from multiple myeloma.
Is there a cure for multiple myeloma?
With multiple myeloma, permanent healing is only possible in cases of localised occurrence at just one point (solitary multiple myeloma) and, with younger patients, following an allogenic bone marrow transplantation (from another person). Apart from this, multiple myeloma is incurable with current treatment methods. The aim of therapy is therefore the prolongation of life and optimisation of the quality of life.
What is the life expectancy of people with multiple myeloma?
The average life expectancy from the time of diagnosis is frequently stated as five to eight years. However, these are average values only, and the life expectancy can be considerably longer. According to a study by the European Cancer Register (2002), only around one third of all multiple myeloma patients live longer than five years.
Is the illness contagious or hereditary?
Multiple myeloma is not contagious.
Whilst first-degree relatives (parents, brothers and sisters) of multiple myeloma patients have an increased risk of suffering the illness themselves, this is not a hereditary disease in the narrower sense.
How should I interpret "Prognosis information"?
Please bear in mind that even if the diagnosis is the same, the progression of the illness and the possible forms of therapy can differ greatly. Whilst statistics are fundamentally significant for the progression of one's own illness, one should not make the mistake of over-estimating their value or of misinterpreting them and losing hope as a result.
Here are a few words of explanation: A term that frequently crops up is the so-called average life expectancy. An average life expectancy of, for example, five years, does not, as frequently assumed, mean that one has only five more years to live, but rather, that half of patients survive for longer than five years. This group of patients that achieve the average (central value) also includes those who may possibly even have been cured, i.e. in principle have a normal life expectancy.
Furthermore, results of studies apply only for the past. However, because, as a rule, the data has been collected a certain time ago, the very latest therapeutic developments that are constantly further improving the chances of cure have, of course, not yet been taken into account. In addition, all studies are based on just one specific sub-group of patients. No study can take full account of all patients.
Each person reacts individually to medicine and other measures. Consequently, any prognosis, for example on the basis of specific risk factors, can only be made for a specific individual case. For this reason, there is no substitute for personal consultation with your doctor. Despite everything, it is not possible to precisely predict the actual development of one's own illness.