Multiple myeloma

Your bones are important for many reasons, not the least of which is giving your skin something to stretch it out. Without your bones you would be unable to walk, stand, sit, move, work… you would really be a useless blob. But did you also know that your bones are also the home in which your antibodies (those proteins that stop bacteria, viruses and parasites from shutting down your entire system) are created? Well it is true because inside your bones is a soft substance called marrow, and marrow is where your plasma cells (also called white blood cells which are those antibodies we discussed) are made. But when you have multiple myeloma, you are suffering from a cancer that attacks your white blood cells and therefore weakens your immune system.

What is multiple myeloma?
Technically, multiple myeloma is a cancer that affects the plasma cells inside your bone marrow. The cancer known as multiple myeloma is considered bone cancer and can exhibit itself as a bone tumor. Multiple myeloma occurs when plasma cells grow very quickly and are out of control. This rapid growth causes some anomalies and tumors to show up in the bone marrow. When this happens, your body can’t create all the platelets and cells necessary for your blood to function and you become anemic.

What are the symptoms of multiple myeloma?
During this time, your cancer within your bones is growing and can cause pain in your bones as well as paralysis and numbness. You may also experience tiredness or fatigue, increased amounts of infections, problems bleeding and shortness of breath. Because your bones are under tremendous stress from the plasma growth and tumors, you may also notice that you have more fractures than you might normally experience.

What are some of the treatment options for multiple myeloma?
Like any kind of cancer, multiple myeloma responds to both chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Unfortunately, treatment does not generally begin until there is some actual pain, shortness of breath, fatigue or other symptom. The silent symptoms of multiple myeloma can be picked up before noticeable symptoms begin but it is difficult to diagnose so no treatment is generally suggested until the doctor can tell for sure—which does not happen until symptoms are felt. The condition is monitored until the symptoms begin to show.

Some younger patients with multiple myeloma have bone marrow transplants in order to beef up their cancer fighting white blood cells. This often works well but is a very risky procedure. It is also difficult to find a suitable bone marrow donor.

There are some medications that can be given which help with anemia and preventing bone fractures. Over the counter medications or supplements for multiple myeloma are not recommended. If you suspect you have this disease you need to speak with your primary care physician and get a suitable prescription.

Unfortunately, while bone marrow transplants and chemotherapy are good at sending the condition into remission and prolonging the patient’s life, they rarely offer a cure that is permanent.

Testing for Multiple Myeloma
If you are suffering from any of the symptoms of multiple myeloma and suspect you may have this disease, it is important that you convey this to your doctor immediately. He or she will do many tests including blood count tests, blood chemistry tests and protein and urine analysis to find out if it is multiple myeloma or some other disorder. Then, he or she will discuss with you the potential treatment options you can choose from and you can both determine the right path to help you move on to a more healing phase in your disease.

Last updated on Jan 24th, 2010 and filed under Immune System. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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