Tag Archive for: fitness

Questions and Considerations When Making Myeloma Treatment Decisions

Questions and Considerations When Making Myeloma Treatment Decisions from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What should be considered when making a myeloma treatment decision? Expert Dr. Jeffrey Matous discusses key factors involved in choosing therapy and provides a list of questions to ask your doctor to guide optimal care.

Dr. Jeffrey Matous is a myeloma specialist at the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute and the assistant chair in myeloma research for Sarah Cannon Research Institute. Learn more about Dr. Matous.

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What factors impact treatment decisions? 

Dr. Jeffrey Matous:

Well, there are so many. One of the key ones is fitness, and fitness is a term that myeloma doctors use and rely on tremendously. 

And fitness, more or less, falls into a couple different categories. It’s more complex than that, obviously, but generally speaking, it’s too old or too frail, or young and vigorous and I stress to my patients that vigorous or frail is not determined by chronological age. It’s determined by your physiologic age. That’s really critical, so determining what your patient’s overall fitness is, is really important in myeloma. And then, we have to assess the risk of myeloma. I think we’ll talk about this a little bit later, because not all myeloma is the same and we treat myelomas differently depending on risk, certainly. And then, patient preference is a huge part, because there are so many ways to treat myeloma these days that we explore options with the patients and sometimes patients have pretty strong opinions about, you know, one type of treatment or the other, for example.  


What testing should take place following a myeloma diagnosis?  

Dr. Jeffrey Matous:

Testing in myeloma is multifaceted, because myeloma can affect patients in so many different ways. For example, it involves radiology studies to look for bone disease, urine work to see if the kidneys are affected by myeloma, a lot of blood work, and then, we also do a lot of testing to make sure that we understand the whole health of the patient, because that comes into play so much when we’re making treatment decisions in myeloma.  


What advice do you have for patients and caregivers related to working with their healthcare team in choosing a therapy? 

Dr. Jeffrey Matous:

Yeah. I think the big thing is to do some research on your own, but really, ask questions when you see your physician. I mean, ask questions about, for example, what are my treatment options? Are there clinical trials that might be available to me? What’s on the cutting edge in myeloma? What are the standard therapies? What are the pros and cons? And a question I often counsel patients to ask when they’re seeking other opinions is if you had 100 people like me and you treated them this way, how many would do well and how many would not do so well, and prognosis, and so forth. And then, the other thing I think is really important sometimes is gauging how experienced your physician is in treating myeloma, because we actually have data that shows that patients who are treated in myeloma centers actually fair a little better than those who are not. 

Involving a myeloma expert in your care doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get your care at that center. It just means you may want a myeloma expert on your team. Pretty much every doctor I know welcomes a myeloma person on their team, because the field is so rapidly evolving. It’s really hard to keep up with for a lot of people. 

Patient Considerations That Impact MPN Treatment Decisions

Patient Considerations That Impact MPN Treatment Decisions from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How can personal choices play a role in your MPN care? Dr. John Mascarenhas reviews factors that should be considered, including lifestyle and overall health, when choosing therapy for essential thrombocythemia (ET), polycythemia vera (PV), or myelofibrosis (MF).

Dr. John Mascarenhas is Associate Professor of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) and the Director of the Adult Leukemia Program and Leader of Clinical Investigation within the Myeloproliferative Disorders Program at Mount Sinai. Learn more about Dr. Mascarenhas, here.

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Katherine Banwell:

Outside of testing, what other factors should be considered when choosing treatment?

Dr. Mascarenhas:       

I think patient expectation. So, sometimes physicians and family will impose what they want for a patient, and that may not be what the patient really wants. So, I have learned over the years that it’s crucial to make sure that you understand the patient and what the patient’s expectations, desires, and that’s influenced by the life they’ve lead or the remaining life that they want to live and their own personal religious and spiritual beliefs.

So, I think knowing your patient and understanding what their expectations are, it’s fundamental, and sometimes, it’s overlooked. So, understanding that, I think, is very crucial. And then, dividing what are the objectives of the treatment in a given patient? Is it really to improve anemia in some patient versus perhaps a different patient, it may be to improve their quality of life and reduce their symptom burden. And then in other patients, it may be purely trying to cure the disease with therapies that may be aggressive, which may not be appropriate for an older patient where toxicity could outweigh any potential benefit of survival or longevity. So, you really have to have a discussion with the patient or caregivers, and then define what are the goals in that individual to personalize that approach for that patient.

Katherine Banwell:                  

Right. Right. And, there’s the patient’s overall health, comorbidities, other things like that?

Dr. Mascarenhas:       

Yeah, because we are not treating a disease in isolation usually. So, patients come with baggage posed of past diseases, current diseases.

And sometimes patients are not “fit” for certain types of therapies because they may be sick or they may have organ dysfunction that would make certain types of treatment approaches ill-advised because the toxicity could be higher. So, absolutely, you need to know their comorbid index, how much comorbidities they have and also their performance status, how active and how well they are in general.

Katherine Banwell:                  

Are there specific biomarkers that may affect prognosis or treatment?

Dr. Mascarenhas:       

So, yes and no. I mean, I think that’s an area of intense interest and research. So, we have identified certain biomarkers that have, as I mentioned, prognostic significance, and that may influence treatment decisions. So, patients who have, for example, as we discussed next-generation sequencing and we see their mutations that are present, if they have an accumulation of high molecular risk mutations, that may give us a sense that perhaps that patient may not enjoy the full benefit and duration of benefit of, for example, a JAK inhibitor as another patient that has a less complex disease.

And, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the therapy is not appropriate for the patient. But it may help us plan and be prepared to move on to the next therapy sooner or to be more vigilant for changes that would tell us it’s time to move on. So, I think they help us maybe get a general sense of things and put things into perspective. They don’t always necessarily inform us on a change in therapy immediately or the next or the most immediate therapy. But I do think that that will change because I would predict in the next five to 10 years, I think that the number of available drugs for myelofibrosis, for example, will likely double from what it is now. I think we will have an armamentarium to choose from, and what we will learn from trials that are ongoing is there may be certain profiles, mutations, chromosomal profiles, other clinical variable profiles that we will learn from these trials that will help us to find upfront, “Well, this profile really should go with his medication. That profile should go with that medication.”

An early of example that would be we’re learning that not all patients with the JAK2 mutation are created equal, that you can have different burdens of JAK2 mutation.

And, patients with low burden JAK2 mutation, for example, may fare better with up a specific JAK to inhibitor like pacritinib than patients who get treated with other JAK inhibitors like ruxolitinib.

So, there are differences even within patient defined by mutation that may help us predict which of the JAK inhibitors, as an example, may be more appropriate as a first-line therapy. So, I think that will evolve more so over the next five to 10 years.

Myeloma Treatment Decisions: What Should Be Considered?

Myeloma Treatment Decisions: What Should Be Considered? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

When deciding on a myeloma treatment, what factors affect your choice? Dr. Joshua Richter shares key considerations, the patient role in making decisions, as well as key questions to ask about treatment

Dr. Joshua Richter is director of Multiple Myeloma at the Blavatnik Family – Chelsea Medical Center at Mount Sinai. He also serves as Assistant Professor of Medicine in The Tisch Cancer Institute, Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology. Learn more about Dr. Richter, here.

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Dr. Richter, would you please start by introducing yourself?

Dr. Richter:

Sure, my name is Dr. Joshua Richter. I’m an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Tisch Cancer Institute Icon School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the Director of Myeloma at The Blavatnik Family Medical Center at Chelsea at Mount Sinai.


Great. Thank you. When making a treatment choice, what are three key considerations for myeloma patients?

Dr. Richter:

Absolutely. So, whenever we decide on treatment options, we consider three main topics: patient-related factors, disease-related factors, and treatment-related factors. So, patient-related factors are easy. How old or young are you? How fit or frail? Do you have any comorbidities, meaning other medical problems like heart disease or diabetes?

Disease-related factors are another important one. How aggressive is your disease? Is it rising up very quickly? Is it very slowly? Do you have something that we call extramedullary disease which means myeloma outside the bone marrow in the mass that we call a plasmacytoma? And that influences how we treat things.

And the last is treatment-related factors. What treatments have you, previously, had, how did you respond to them, and what side effects did you have?

If you developed a lot of neuropathy with one drug, we may not want to choose a drug that continues to have that type of side effect profile.


What’s the role as a patient in making treatment decisions?

Dr. Richter:

The role, from my standpoint of the patient, is honesty. You don’t get extra points for being in pain. I want to hear from you. I want you to tell me what your concerns are, short-term, long-term. I want you to tell me about little problems that you don’t – it’s not that you don’t want to bother your care team, we want to know.

Because something little may mean something big to us. So, all we want is for your well-being. And the better we keep those lines of communication open, the better.


Are there questions that patients should consider asking about their treatment plans?

Dr. Richter:

Absolutely. I think in a day and age where there’s so many different options, I think it’s always important to ask the care provider, what are the alternatives to this? Or why did you select this treatment for me? Because many times, there are alternative answers. So, in myeloma, there are a lot of options that may be good for someone. And the physician team may say we recommend this drug, and the patient may have trouble getting back and forth to clinic for logistical reasons. And there may be an all-oral alternative that if you don’t ask, we may not know that that’s going to be your preference. So, really that dialog is crucial.

The Power Of Fitness And Weight Loss As Self Care

A recent report by the NPR charts the rise of the $10 billion self care industry.  Far from dismissing it as flippant or purely cosmetic, it seems that there is a power to self-care which is only just emerging.  The January Empowered #patientchat focused on the importance of self-care for both patients and care partners, and many contributors highlighted health and fitness as valuable opportunities for self-care and empowerment.  So how can you empower yourself to make great health and fitness choices? And how will they benefit you?

Losing pounds, gaining results

Studies have shown that losing 5-10% of your body weight can make a real difference to your physical health, helping to protect from conditions such as heart disease, arthritis and diabetes.  It can also be a real boost to your self-esteem to start seeing results on the scales or in your jeans. Finding the motivation to stick to a plan, and seeing it pay off as you hit milestones and goals is hugely rewarding and empowering.  Fitness is a journey that no-one else can take for you; you can have cheerleaders and a full support crew, but it’s you doing the work, which is why it feels so great when you achieve. Not seeing the results you were hoping for by now? It may be that you’re making some of the common weight loss mistakes that can prevent effective and lasting weight loss. By reading up and avoiding the pitfalls, you can get on with building a better body.

Boosting your body

Nourishing your body from within with good healthy food is one of the most meaningful forms of self-care. The USDA offers sound advice on creating a varied, nutritious plate to ensure that your body is boosted in the nutrients it needs. Drinking plenty of water is also always a powerful tool, enabling your body to replenish and restore itself. Put simply, taking time to feed yourself with a rainbow of fruit and vegetables, lean proteins and fiber, along with all the other food groups in moderation, will strengthen your body and boost your immune system.  There’s also evidence that the colors and textures will help your mental health too; so why wait?

There’s no doubt that obesity is bad for the body, and it already affects over a third of US adults. What’s becoming clearer though, is that taking a positive approach to weight loss, through regular exercise and healthy eating, not only improves physical health but greatly boosts mental health and well-being. Empower yourself by embracing your health and fitness, and you may just find it to be the greatest expression of self-care possible.

Photo by Martine Jacobsen on Unsplash