Also called plasma cell dyscrasia, plasma cell myeloma, malignant plasmacytoma, plasmacytoma of the bone
Successfully Treating Multiple Myeloma
The Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Hospital Angeles Lomas boasts state of the art facilities and world class physicians. Using our facilities and high levels of expertise we have successfully cured patients who have been diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Because we know what a confusing time this can be, we provide no-obligation, free consultations to individuals and their loved ones who may be considering bone marrow transplant to treat a bone marrow disorder.
Multiple Myeloma Causes and Risk Factors
Multiple Myeloma is a cancer which affects a type of white blood cell, called plasma cells. It is estimated that around 20,000 Americans will be diagnosed with multiple myeloma this year. Although the exact cause of this disease is unknown, previous radiation and chemotherapy treatment makes the development of this type of cancer much more likely. Research has also shown heightened risk factors, including:
- Age: over 65s are at greatest risk.
- Gender: men appear to be at a greater risk, with around 11,200 men and 8,700 women being diagnosed every year.
- Race: the risk of developing the disease is highest among African Americans, with Asian Americans being at the lowest risk.
- Genetics: relatives of people who have had the disease are at a higher risk.
How it Works
Multiple Myeloma starts in the plasma cells within the bone marrow. The bone marrow produces different types of white blood cells. One of these types is known as B cells, which tend to stay inside the bone marrow until an antigen appears in the body. The antigen binds to the B cell and stimulates it to create a plasma cell, which then produces antibodies to defend the body from potential dangers. A normal plasma cell produces antibodies for 4-5 days before dying.
If a person has multiple myeloma, malignant plasma cells develop uncontrollably within the bone marrow, forming tumors in the solid bone. Similar to myelofibrosis, these tumors make it harder for the bone marrow to produce sufficient levels of blood, causing physical symptoms. As is typical with most cancers, these cancerous cells reproduce even when they are not required and tend to live for longer, being less easy to destroy.
The symptoms of multiple myeloma are caused by both the formation of tumors within the blood and the insufficient production of blood, caused by impaired bone marrow production. The tumors within the bone may cause bone pain, usually within the back and ribs, or numbness in limbs, if the tumor is in the spine. The tumors, and lack of bone marrow, can also cause the bones to be more brittle.
Other symptoms, caused by insufficient blood production include:
- Bruising and bleeding (caused by low platelet counts)
- Fatigue and shortness of breath, caused by anemia
- Fevers caused by poor immunity due to the lack of white blood cells
Diagnosis and Treatment
In the first instance, if you present with the symptoms caused by the low blood levels, your doctor will probably take a blood count and check your urine for proteins and antibodies. An X-ray may show fractured bones or hollow areas of the bone, and a bone marrow biopsy, where a small sample of your bone marrow is taken and examined, will confirm the presence of cancerous plasma cells.
If it is confirmed that you have multiple myeloma, your physicians will probably conduct further blood tests, a CT scan and an MRI to confirm the stage of the disease. There are four general stages of multiple myeloma: smoldering, where the disease is in its early stages with no symptoms, such as bone damage; stage one, early stages with symptoms; and stages 2 or 3, where the disease is more advanced and there are more myeloma cells in the body.
Depending on the diagnosis, the stage of the disease and the health of the patient, there are several treatment options. These include waiting to see whether the disease develops further (in the case of stage 1 or smoldering Myeloma), induction therapy; intensive chemotherapy to induce remission, and bone marrow or stem cell transplant.
Whilst treatment for multiple myeloma can control the disease and help to keep the patient in remission, the disease can rarely be cured without a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. Ask your doctor to detail your treatment options so that you can make an informed decision. Also ask about any clinical trials that you may be eligible to take part in.
Multiple Myeloma and BMT
Being diagnosed with multiple myeloma is very distressing for you and the people around you. It is important that you ask all of the questions that you need to so that you can come to the best decision for you.
Many people with multiple myeloma will decide that bone marrow transplant is the best option for them. A stem cell or bone marrow transplant means that you can be treated with high levels of drugs, which will completely destroy the existing bone marrow cells. Once these cells have been destroyed, new, healthy stem cells will be introduced to your body, allowing you to grow healthy productive bone marrow.
Whilst waiting to see how the disease develops in smoldering or stage 1 myeloma can delay the stress and side effects of treatment, catching and treating any disease as soon as possible could maximize the treatment’s success.
If you think that you may opt for a bone marrow or stem cell transplant at any point in the future, let your doctor know so that they can limit the number of blood transfusions you will receive and properly treat any transfused blood to eliminate cells that could potentially cause transplanted stem cells to be rejected.
If you think that a bone marrow transplant may help you or a loved one and would like a free consultation with a medical professional then please don’t hesitate to contact us by filling out an inquiry form.