Multiple myeloma is a cancer formed by white blood cells (i.e. plasma cell) that mulitply abnormally within blood marrow. Normal plasma cells fight infections and other diseases and therefore, form an important part of the immune system. Since there is an excess of plasma cells with multiple myeloma, unhealthy levels of protein are released into bones and blood which then causes organ damage.
Multiple Myeloma Overview
It’s unknown what causes multiple myeloma, but there are certain risk factors which can increase a person’s chances of developing the disease. The risk factors are:
- Age 65+
- African-American descent
- Previous malignant plasma cell diagnosis in the family
The best strategy for early diagnosis is prompt attention to the signs and symptoms of the disease as well as knowing family medical history.
Similar to other cancers, symptoms of this disease are not noticeable in its early stages. It can be found early in circumstances when a routine blood test shows an abnormally high amount of protein in the blood. When malignant plasma cells have progressed into a more advanced stage, plasma cells accumulate in the bones and the following symptoms appear:
- Bone pain
- Weight loss
- Excessive thirst
- Kidney problems
- Weakness and fatigue due to anemia
It is very important to know that symptoms such as these can be caused by another medical condition and not cancer; if symptoms present themselves, it is imperative to consult a physician. If you feel that you have symptoms indicating the presence of multiple myeloma, please don’t hesitate to contact the Comprehensive Cancer Center to schedule a consultation. We are available to answer any questions and help with medical concerns that you might have.
Diagnosis of the disease influences treatment decisions. If X-rays are taken of the malignancy, a doctor can identify where bone might have been weakened by multiple myeloma. Sometimes a CT scan, MRI or PET scan might be needed but this depends on a patient’s circumstances.
A combination of chemotherapy and other drugs is frequently used to treat multiple myeloma. Radiation therapy with its ability to treat the affected area directly is used on diseased cells helping to reduce pain and stabilize the weakened bone.
Treatment decisions are determined by several factors including the stage of the cancer; the patient’s health, age, and medical condition; and the myeloma. Depending on a patient’s circumstances, other possible treatments for malignant plasma cells may include:
- Biologic therapy
- Stem cell transplantation
Before making any treatment decisions, it is important to ask questions and discuss all treatment options and possible side effects with your doctor.
The Cancer Center of Southern California applies a multi-disciplinary approach to cancer care. Our physicians and staff partner with patients throughout treatment encouraging them to participate in their own medical care and thereby helping them to make informed decisions. The Center’s oncologists have led advanced clincial cancer research and conducted groundbreaking work in lung cancer and gastrointestinal tumors. Our physicians are dedicated to their work in life-saving cancer treatments and through their research, have access to the most advanced therapies on behalf of their patients.
Learn more about multiple myeloma from WebMD.com.
Cancer Center physicians are actively involved in clinical trials of the newest drugs, which we can make available to our patients whenever needed.
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