Multiple Myeloma (Bone Cancer) Huntsville Alabama and Other Locations
Multiple Myeloma (Kahler's Disease)
Multiple myeloma is a cancer that is found in the plasma cells which are located in bone marrow. As with all cancers, the normal healthy cells mutate into cancer cells and multiply at a faster rate than a healthy blood cell. When these cells start multiplying at a faster rate, they produce a tumor in the bone marrow called a plasmacytoma. If just one tumor is detected in the bone marrow it is called an isolated plasmacytoma. When it is more than one tumor, it is classified as multiple myeloma.
Although it is not clear what exactly causes multiple myeloma, doctors do know that it begins with just one abnormal plasma cell in the bone marrow. Because cancer cells don’t mature and then die off like normal healthy cells do, they accumulate, and eventually overwhelm the production of healthy cells.
Multiple myeloma is difficult to detect in its early stages, because patients often don’t have symptoms. Occasionally, it may be found in an early stage if a patient’s routine bloodwork from a physical shows abnormalities. As the disease progresses some common symptoms of multiple myeloma include:
- Bone pain, especially in the back
- Unexplained weight loss
- Long lasting infections, such as respiratory infections
- Numbness or weakness in extremities due to pressure on the spinal cord
- Hypercalcemia (unusually high levels of calcium in the blood)
- Renal (kidney) failure
Researches have not found many underlying factors that lead to multiple myeloma. Just because a person has a risk factor, does not necessarily mean they will develop the disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any of the following risk factors:
- Race – African Americans are twice as likely to develop multiple myeloma than white Americans, although researchers are still trying to determine the cause
- Radiation – exposure to atomic bomb or low levels of radiation
- Family history – in a very small number of cases there has been a link to a patient developing multiple myeloma after a sibling or parent has been diagnosed
- Having monoclonal gammopathy or a solitary plasmacytoma
Multiple myeloma can cause other complications in the body due to the spreading infection in the plasma cells. If problems from multiple myeloma occur, your oncologist will discuss your treatment options to cure or contain these complications. Some of the complications often seen in multiple myeloma include:
- Anemia, low white blood cells, low platelets
- Kidney failure
- Failure to fight infections
- Bone fractures
- Circulation problems
Once multiple myeloma is suspected your healthcare provider will administer one or more of the following tests to confirm the diagnosis:
- Bone marrow biopsy (considered the gold standard)
- Blood test
- Urine test
- Skeletal survey
- CT scan
- PET scan
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the multiple myeloma is categorized into a stage based on the amount of abnormal monoclonal immunoglobulin in the blood or urine, the amount of calcium in the blood, the severity of bone damage, or the amount of hemoglobin in the blood.
Treatment options for multiple myeloma depend on the stage of progression and the overall health of the patient. Your Clearview oncologist will discuss your treatment options which may include one of more of the following:
Sometimes, a combination of treatments may be the best path for you. This is dependent on whether a patient is a good candidate for a bone marrow transplant, which relies on the risk of your disease progressing, your age, and your overall health.
Along with treatments, also come complications from the treatments themselves, as well as complications that just come along with multiple myeloma. These issues may need to be treated as well and these include but are not limited to:
- Bone pain
- Kidney complications from aggressive medications
- Infection risk from a weakened immune system
- Bone loss
It is important to remember that no two people are alike; treatment and response to treatment can vary greatly between patients. In general, about 50% of people diagnosed with multiple myeloma were alive 5 years later.
With an early-stage diagnosis, which is hard to come by due to the difficulty of diagnosing multiple myeloma early on, the 5-year survival rate is 71%.
With a later-stage diagnosis, and the cancer has spread to a distant part of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 48%.