It’s no secret that receiving treatment for cancer is an intense experience. But dealing with cancer while also managing a chronic medical condition, like multiple sclerosis (MS), is a double whammy that requires extra support and encouragement.
While managing two serious illnesses isn’t easy, effective cancer treatment for MS patients is possible with the help of the right experts. A coordinated care effort between your MS doctors and your oncologists can ensure you receive the best care possible and achieve the best outcomes for your particular situation.
First Steps to Effective Treatment
Dealing with a dual diagnosis is challenging, and it’s even harder when you’re dealing with a chronic neurological condition like MS. It’s essential to have experts on your team from each field of medicine: neurology and oncology. Your neurologist is your go-to resource for handling your MS, but you need an oncologist on your care team who can competently and confidently direct your cancer treatment.
Your oncologist will determine the best treatment options for you based on your unique medical history, the type of cancer you have and your current MS treatment regimen. As part of your care, it’s essential that you let each member of your care team know exactly what medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, you’re taking for each condition. Research published in BioMed Central Neurology indicates that certain medications for MS, including some types of older immunosuppressants, can increase your cancer risk. However, newer MS medications, like certain disease-modifying drugs, haven’t been associated with increased cancer risk, according to Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology.
Since both are serious illnesses, it’s difficult to manage MS and cancer at the same time. Depending on your situation, you may need to discuss prioritizing your cancer treatment over your MS treatment, even if it’s only for a short period of time.
As difficult as it can be to live with, multiple sclerosis is typically not life-threatening. But cancer can be, depending on the type and stage of cancer you have. Sometimes, cancer treatment for MS patients shifts focus from your neurological condition to your cancer to tackle it head-on. This doesn’t mean stopping your treatments for MS — only your doctors can tell you the best course of action to take. It may be necessary, however, to decide which condition should take priority at that time.
Coordinating care between your neurologist and oncologist can seem like a full-time job. If you’re having trouble keeping up with information, communicating with your healthcare team or handling insurance issues, resources like the National Multiple Sclerosis Society can assist you in finding local care management resources for extra support.
Dealing with two diagnoses, like cancer and MS, is hard — but managing and prioritizing your care with the help of the right experts can make the process as smooth as possible. Your comprehensive treatment plan will be highly individualized based on your medical history and current treatment goals. Working together with each member of your treatment team ensures crucial treatment decisions are made with all available information and input from everyone involved in your care.
UVA Cancer Center offers unique treatment plans tailored to each patient.Learn More