Multiple Myeloma

Medication Adherence

While you are undergoing cancer treatment, you may not always feel as if you’re in control. One thing you can control, however, is staying on track with your medications. By making a commitment to medication adherence – taking the right dose of the right drug at the right time – you’re also actively participating in your own care, something that is always encouraged.

Following drug therapy exactly as your doctor prescribes is important because you’re enabling the medication to be fully effective and work as it is intended. Most drug regimens for cancer treatment are designed to maintain a specific level of drugs in your system for a specific duration of time, based on your cancer type, stage, previous treatments and several other factors.

You’ll benefit in other ways, too. When you adhere to the medication schedule set by your doctor, you will likely avoid additional side effects that may occur from an unplanned change in treatment. In turn, you will have fewer visits to the doctor’s office and potentially avoid hospitalizations that may occur because of side effects or other complications.

Always be open and honest with your health care team. Ask questions about anything you don’t understand and bring up any concerns, no matter how trivial you think they are. When it comes to your medication, keeping the lines of communication open is not only important, it’s vital to your treatment and recovery.


Preventing and Managing Pain

Medication adherence is important when you’re managing pain. Around-the-clock dosing, which refers to taking medication at regularly scheduled intervals throughout the day and night, can help you “stay ahead” of pain. Take your pain medication exactly as your doctor prescribes, and be sure to communicate regularly with your medical team.



A Plan For Success

Medication adherence may seem like a simple concept, but it takes effort and coordination. Many times people may unintentionally miss a dose or veer from their schedule. Whether you receive your medications at your doctor’s office, treatment center or hospital, or you take them at home, here are some things you can do to help stay on schedule.

  • Make a list of your medications, along with the name and contact information for the doctors who prescribed them. Let a caregiver, family member or friend know where you keep the list.
  • Learn about your medications, and ask questions about anything you don’t understand before starting them.
  • Set reminders for when to leave for appointments and when to take medications. You have many options for reminder tools, such as setting a timer on your telephone, using an alarm clock or wearing a watch that vibrates to alert you. If you have a smartphone, explore the many medication reminder apps that are available. Many are free.
  • Keep your appointments for testing and monitoring. These visits allow your doctor to track your progress and analyze the cancer’s response to the medication you’re taking. Use your appointments as an opportunity to ask your health care team about your medications and any side effects you’re experiencing, and to discuss any trouble you’re having.
  • Manage your side effects. Many of the common side effects associated with treatment, such as fatigue, nausea, diarrhea or dermatologic reactions, can be managed with other medications. Ask your health care team about the side effects to expect and suggestions for managing them. Take notes about the side effects you experience. Include details, such as when they occur, how severe they are and what makes them better. Share this information with your health care team so they can assist you.
  • Involve your caregiver or another person who can remind you of your schedule. Adherence is easier when someone can help you.


Controlling Adherence

      For Medications Taken at Home

  • Use a calendar or a journal to track medication names, doses and times. Make a check mark next to each medication once you’ve taken it.
  • Use a pill organizer, but, first, make sure you understand how to properly store your medications. Some may need to be stored in their original container, in the refrigerator or in a moisture-free environment, for example.
  • Refill your medications promptly to ensure you don’t run out. A good rule of thumb is to call your doctor’s office when one refill is left.
  • If you plan on traveling, it’s best to keep medications in their original container. When flying, keep medications with you in carry-on luggage in case your checked bag gets lost. Take unexpected travel setbacks into consideration, and bring enough medication in case you’re delayed. Also, keep your medication list with you in case a prescription needs to be refilled while you’re away.

      For Treatments Given by Your Health Care Team

  • Make – and keep – your appointments.
  • Track your appointments on a calendar. Highlight them or set electronic notifications as a reminder.
  • If you don’t or can’t drive, arrange a ride in advance to your appointments.
  • Ensure you have a companion if you prefer not to go alone.
  • Coordinate with your employer to ensure you can take time off from work.



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