Steroids are often used as treatment for myeloma. They help destroy myeloma cells and also make chemotherapy and targeted therapies work better.

About steroids and myeloma

Steroids help destroy myeloma cells and also make chemotherapy and targeted therapies work better. You usually have them along with these treatments which are given over a few months.

The 2 most commonly used steroids for myeloma are:

  • prednisolone
  • dexamethasone.

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

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

Side effects of steroids

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. Some of the side effects of steroids include:

  • heartburn or indigestion
  • mood changes, such as restlessness or mood swings
  • increased appetite, which may cause weight gain
  • difficulty sleeping
  • increased level of sugar in the blood
  • build-up of fluid, which may cause swelling in your hands and feet.

The side effects of steroids are temporary. They gradually go away as treatment finishes or your doctor lowers the dose. Some side effects are more likely if you are taking steroids for a long time. With myeloma it is unusual to take them for a long time.

We have more information about steroids, their side effects and how to manage them.