Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. It is more effective against solid tumors than blood cancers like multiple myeloma, but it may be used in special circumstances.
If radiation therapy is used to treat multiple myeloma, it is done with external beam radiation. In external beam radiation therapy, radiation is produced by a machine positioned outside the body. Short bursts of x-rays are directed at specific areas. The radiation oncologist will direct the radiation beam to affect as much cancer as possible.
Radiation therapy may be used to treat areas that have symptoms if chemotherapy is not effective. It may be used to: Ease symptoms caused by a tumor that returns to one site. Eliminate all myeloma cells to prepare the bone marrow for a transplant of new, healthy stem cells.
Radiation therapy can also be used to relieve bone pain. However, radiation further weakens the bones and decreases bone marrow function, so it may not be an option for everyone.
Multiple myeloma. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003131-pdf.pdf. Accessed May 13, 2016.
Multiple myeloma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 7, 2016. Accessed May 13, 2016.
Multiple myeloma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/plasma-cell-disorders/multiple-myeloma. Updated August 2013. Accessed May 13, 2016.
Radiation therapy. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at: http://www.lls.org/disease-information/myeloma/treatment/radiation-therapy. Accessed May 13, 2016.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
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