Multiple Myeloma: Symptoms and Treatment

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Multiple myeloma occurs when your body’s plasma cells begin to grow out of control in your bone marrow. Plasma cells are one type of white blood cells, and they are usually responsible for producing antibodies to help your immune system ward off diseases and illnesses. In cases of multiple myeloma, these white blood cells produce ineffective antibodies, leaving your body vulnerable to infections and other diseases.

Multiple Myeloma Causes

As is often the case when it comes to cancer, we don’t yet know the exact cause of multiple myeloma. However, there are certain risk factors to be mindful of, including the following:

  • Family History
  • Gender, Especially if You’re Male
  • Age, Especially if You’re 60YearsOld or Older
  • Ethnicity, Especially if You’re African-American
  • Obesity
  • Prior Exposure to Cancer-Causing Chemicals and Radiation

Multiple Myeloma Symptoms

Like other types of cancer, you may not notice any symptoms in the early stages of multiple myeloma. However, as the disease progresses, you or your doctor may begin to notice the following symptoms:

  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Weight Loss
  • Frequent Infections
  • Bone Pain in Your Ribs or Back
  • Muscle or Bone Weakness in Your Legs
  • Decreased Kidney Function
  • Increased Protein Levels in Your Urine or Blood

Additionally, you may begin experiencing increased levels of calcium in your blood. If this happens, it means the calcium from your bones is beginning to enter your blood because of the damage caused by the cancerous cells. When this happens, you may begin noticing the following symptoms:

  • Constipation
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Nausea
  • Frequent Urination
  • Increased Thirst
  • Fatigue

Multiple Myeloma Diagnosis

If you think you may have symptoms of multiple myeloma, consult with your doctor. He or she will perform an exam and discuss your symptoms before ordering tests to diagnose your condition. Your doctor may recommend urine and blood tests to properly diagnose your condition. With these tests, he or she can measure the following levels to help in thediagnosis:

If your doctor believes you may have multiple myeloma after performing these tests, he or shewill likely order images of your bones via an MRI, X-ray, CT, or PET/CT. Additionally, he or she may take a biopsy of your bone marrow tissue for further examination. 

Multiple Myeloma Treatment

Fortunately, multiple myeloma has a variety of different treatment options available, depending on your individual condition. In its early stages, the disease may not even require immediate treatment. However, if it progresses or worsens, your doctor may recommend the following treatment options:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Novel Therapies, Including Lenalidomide, Thalidomide, and Bortezomib
  • Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Bisphosphonates, Such as Pamidronate and Zoledronic Acid

Multiple Myeloma Prognosis

In most cases, multiple myeloma has no cure. However, the disease is very manageable with the right treatment plan. This means if you’re diagnosed with this disease, being able to live a fulfilling life is still a very real possibility.