Steroids for myeloma

Steroids may be used as treatment for myeloma, on their own or in combination with other drugs. They help destroy myeloma cells and also make chemotherapy and targeted therapies work better.

About steroids for myeloma

Steroids are drugs that can be used to help destroy myeloma cells. They can also make chemotherapy and targeted therapies more effective.

Steroids may also be used to treat a possible bone problem of myeloma, called spinal cord compression. This is when myeloma is in the bones of the spine and putting pressure on the spinal cord.

The 2 most commonly used steroids for myeloma are:

  • prednisolone
  • dexamethasone.

Steroids may be used on their own or in combination with other drugs. 

They are usually taken as tablets. If you have difficulty swallowing them, you can have steroids that are liquid or that dissolve.

If you only take small doses of a steroid, you may not have many side effects. If you need larger doses for longer, you may have more side effects.

How do steroids work?

Steroids are substances that are naturally produced in the body. They help to control many of the different ways our bodies work.

Steroids can also be made in a laboratory as drugs and used as a cancer treatment. They can be used to help destroy myeloma cells. They can also help to make chemotherapy and targeted therapies more effective.

Side effects of steroids for myeloma

Side effects of steroids can include:

  • heartburn or indigestion – taking your tablets with food or milk can help prevent this, or your doctor may prescribe drugs to help
  • feeling irritable
  • mood changes
  • increased appetite
  • having more energy
  • difficulty sleeping – taking your steroids in the morning can help
  • increased level of sugar in the blood – you will have regular blood tests or tests on your urine (pee) to check this, but if you get very thirsty or feel you are passing more urine than usual, tell your doctor.

It is unusual for people with myeloma to take steroids for a long time. But if you do, you may notice that you put on weight, especially on your face, waist and shoulders. You may also notice other temporary side effects, including:

  • water retention
  • high blood pressure
  • a slightly greater risk of getting infections.

The side effects of steroids are usually temporary and disappear as the dose is lowered. Some people experience tiredness or fatigue when they stop taking the steroids.

We have more information about taking steroids and side effects.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our myeloma information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Myeloma: diagnosis and management. NICE guideline [NG35]. Published: 10 February 2016 Last updated: 25 October 2018. Available from: Accessed: 19/07/22

    Jonathan Sive et al., on behalf of the British Society of Haematology. British Journal of Haematology. Guidelines on the diagnosis, investigation and initial treatment of myeloma: a British Society for Haematology/UK Myeloma Forum Guideline. Published: 21 March 2021 Available from: Accessed: 19/07/22

    M.A. Dimopoulos et al. Annals of oncology. European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO). Multiple myeloma: EHA-ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Volume 32, ISSUE 3, P309-322, March 01, 2021. Available from: Accessed: 19/07/22

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr Anne Parker, Consultant Haematologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

The language we use

We want everyone affected by cancer to feel our information is written for them.

We want our information to be as clear as possible. To do this, we try to:

  • use plain English
  • explain medical words
  • use short sentences
  • use illustrations to explain text
  • structure the information clearly
  • make sure important points are clear.

We use gender-inclusive language and talk to our readers as ‘you’ so that everyone feels included. Where clinically necessary we use the terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ or ‘male’ and ‘female’. For example, we do so when talking about parts of the body or mentioning statistics or research about who is affected.

You can read more about how we produce our information here.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 31 August 2021
Next review: 31 August 2024
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.