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Myeloma: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About myeloma

Myeloma is a term used for one of the cancerous condition of the blood. All blood cells namely red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets are formed in the bone marrow. Myeloma is the cancer of the plasma cell, which is a type of white blood cell. The condition is characterised by uncontrolled growth of the plasma cells, which results in reduced production of normal blood cells. Myeloma may occur at different sites in body and is thus also referred to, as ‘multiple myeloma’.

Myeloma: Incidence, age and sex

On an average, 10 in every 100,000 individuals are affected with myeloma, globally . It is usually seen in older age groups with equal prevalence in both men and women. All races including Hispanics, Whites, Blacks and Asians seem to be equally affected by this disease. However, mortality rates are higher in Blacks.

Signs and symptoms of myeloma: Diagnosis

The primary clinical features of myeloma include anaemia due to decreased production of red blood cells. Immunity is decreased due to the decreased production of white blood cells and immunoglobulins. This increases increased their susceptibility to infections. The tumour in the bone marrow may spread to the bone and cause destruction. The bones become weakened and may get easily fractured. Such individuals may experience bleeding disorders and bone pain.

The diagnosis of myeloma is usually established by an invasive procedure called bone marrow biopsy. Blood tests showing increased level of serum calcium and protein support such diagnosis. Assessment of monoclonal proteins may also help in corroborating the diagnosis.

Causes and prevention of myeloma

The cause of myeloma is not known. However, many factors have been linked to its occurrence including genetic, chemical exposure, radiation, viral infection or immunity dysfunction.

Myeloma: Complications

Myeloma is a disease affecting the blood cells hence may have complication affecting the entire body. The individual may become weak due to anaemia and low immunity. The decrease in white blood cells and immunoglobulins may cause frequent infections. This disease may cause destruction to the bone and make it vulnerable to fracture. There is increase in blood calcium due to bone erosion and increase in proteins produced by these abnormal plasma cells. Myeloma also hampers the kidney function as it blocks the kidney from clearing of the blood products. The kidney cells are thereby damaged and ultimately may cause kidney failure. Increased protein level may cause thickening of the blood. All these complications need to be taken care of, by supportive symptomatic treatment.

Myeloma: Treatment

Myeloma is a lifelong disease for which no cure has yet been discovered. The treatment given is symptomatic and palliative. The treatment currently used, include chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, which help in destroying the cancer cells. For every individual, the therapy varies according to his/her symptoms and conditions. As there is no complete cure, the main aim is complete remission, prolonging life span, relieving symptoms and improving the quality of life. Now-a-days, stem cell transplantation may also be considered in individuals who do not respond to any modality of treatment.