Multiple myeloma is cancer of the plasma cells, which are special types of white blood cells (B lymphocytes). Lymphocytes are produced in bone marrow (the soft substance in the middle of bones). Plasma cells are involved in the immune system. They make antibodies that attack foreign substances (antigens such as viruses and bacteria) in the body. When plasma cells become abnormal and malignant, they multiply rapidly, interfere with normal blood cells, and make abnormal antibodies that can’t fight disease. Overgrowth of these malignant cells can weaken bones and cause pain and fractures.
This disorder is uncommon, but more than 14,000 new cases are diagnosed yearly in the United States. Most cases occur after age 60.
The cause is unknown. The disease isn’t contagious.
Bone pain is a common symptom, with the back and ribs most often affected. Pain is worse with movement. Low blood count (anemia) and infections are common.
Myeloma cells destroy the bone and release calcium into blood, which leads to complications such as nerve compression, lower leg weakness, and kidney failure. High blood calcium levels can cause increased urination, weakness, and confusion.
The doctor will do a complete physical examination and order blood and urine tests, x-rays, and bone marrow biopsy for diagnosis. In a biopsy, marrow is removed from the bone and checked with a microscope. An abnormal protein in the blood, x-rays results, and abnormal plasma cells in the biopsy confirm the diagnosis.
Staging of the cancer is done to give a prognosis. Staging involves finding out the extent of disease. Many people with very early stage disease live longer than 5 years, but people with advanced disease may have a much shorter life expectancy.
An oncologist (doctor specializing in cancer) will be involved in treatment, which depends on the stage of disease. Stem cell transplantation, chemotherapy, biologic therapy, blood transfusions, radiation therapy, and surgery are used.
Radiation therapy is used for bone pain and medical emergencies (spinal cord compression).
Operations are needed for bone fractures. Supportive treatments, such as antibiotics (for infections), medications to lower the calcium level, and narcotic pain medicines, help well-being.
Contact the following source: