What is multiple myeloma?
Multiple myeloma is cancer of white blood cells called plasma cells. Normally, plasma cells are found in the bone marrow and help produce antibodies, called immunoglobulins, to fight infections. There are other cells found in the bone marrow, such as red cells and platelets. However, with multiple myeloma, the plasma cells release too much immunoglobulins into the bones and blood, which can cause organ damage. The overgrowth of plasma cells can overcrowd normal blood-forming cells, which can lead to bone loss, low blood count, infections and kidney problems.
What are the risk factors?
There is no clear cause of myeloma. But there are factors that may increase your risk of developing multiple myeloma, which include:
- Age. Most people are diagnosed in their mid-60s
- Male gender. Men are more likely to develop myeloma than woman
- Race. African Americans are twice as likely to develop myeloma than any other race
- Family history of multiple myeloma. If a close relative has multiple myeloma, you have an increased risk of getting the disease.
- Personal history of a monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS). People with MGUS have a higher risk of getting multiple myeloma.
What are the symptoms?
Early in the disease, there can be no symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, symptoms may occur.
- Bone pain
- Weight Loss
- Loss of appetite
How to get a diagnosis?
If you have too much calcium, low red blood cells and high protein in your blood, your physician can order additional blood tests to check for multiple myeloma. Your physician may also want to perform a bone marrow biopsy to check your number of plasma cells.
What are the treatment options?
If you have symptoms, your physician will come up with a treatment plan catered for you.
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Corticosteroids are used to ease the side effects of chemotherapy drugs
- Targeted therapy drugs, which target proteins, genes or tissues to prevent myeloma from spreading
- Stem cell transplant
- Radiation therapy
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