Multiple Myeloma - Health Center

Multiple Myeloma

By Refadoc, Posted on : Tuesday, 15 September 2015 - 10:46 am IST

Multiple Myeloma: Basic Overview

Multiple Myeloma is a type of cancer which forms within the white blood cells, which are also commonly known as plasma cells. Plasma cells are vital in order to fight against the infections by forming antibodies that recognize as well as fights against foreign germs.

Multiple Myeloma causes the cancer cells to accumulate within the bone marrow, where they outnumber the healthy red blood cells. This leads to the production of abnormal proteins which, later on, cause kidney problems amongst the patients.

A number of treatment options are available for the patients who battle with Multiple Myeloma. These treatment options depend upon the stage as well as the symptoms which are being experienced by the patients.

Causes of Multiple Myeloma

The causes of Multiple Myeloma are not very clear.

The disease originates with the formation of one abnormal plasma cell in the bone marrow. This cell starts to multiple rapidly within the body. Since the cancer cells do not mature and then die just as normal cells do, they tend to accumulate within the body, hampering the production and formation of normal body cells. Within the bone marrow, the cells crowd out the healthy blood cells, leading to an increased fatigue and inability of the immune system to fight against infections.

The Myeloma cells tend to try producing antiodies, just like the healthy plasma cells. However, the myeloma cells tend to produce abnormal antibodies, which are deemed unusable by the body. The abnormal antibodies known as monoclonal proteins or M Proteins, instead of fighting against the infections, cause damage to the kidneys.

Almost in all the patients, Multiple Myeloma starts with a condition known as Monoclonal Gammapathy of Undetermined Significance (MGUS). MGUS, just like other conditions is identified by the presence of the abnormal plasma cells in the blood. In MGUS, the levels of the M proteins in the body are lower and no damage to the vital organs occurs.

Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma

The signs and symptoms of Multiple Myeloma can vary from one person to the other. However, some of the most common signs and symptoms are as follows:

  •       Bone pain, mostly around the spinal cord and the chest
  •       Nausea
  •       Constipation
  •       Loss of appetite
  •       Incurring frequent infections
  •       Confusion
  •       Consistent fatigue
  •       Loss of weight
  •       Weakness and numbness in the limbs
  •       Increased thirst

It is recommended to visit a doctor if you have been suffering from the above mentioned symptoms persistently.

Tests and Diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma:

Multiple Myeloma can be easily diagnosed with the help of a blood test. Some of the major diagnostic measures for the diagnosis of the condition are as follows:

  1. Blood Tests: Blood tests are vital in order to determine the presence of the M proteins which have been produced by the myeloma cells within the body. Beta 2 Microglobulin, which is another abnormal protein produced by the myeloma cells can also be detected with the help of a blood test. The presence of these proteins gives the doctor an idea regarding the aggressiveness of the condition. Blood tests are also vital in order to examine the functioning of the kidney function, calcium levels as well as the uric acid levels within the body.
  2. Urine Tests: Analysis of the urine samples can reveal the levels of the M Proteins, which are also known as Bence Jones Proteins in the body.
  3. Bone Marrow Examination: A bone marrow biopsy is often conducted in which the doctors tend to remove a part of the bone marrow with the help of a long needle. This sample is then checked for the presence of the myeloma cells. Certain tests such as FISH (Fluorescence in situ hybridisation) are conducted in order to check the patient for the chromosome abnormalities. These tests give an idea regarding the rate at which the myeloma cells are dividing within the body.
  4. Imaging Tests: Imaging Tests are done in order to detect the problems with the bone marrow. X rays, MRI scans, CT scans as well as PET (Positron Emission Tomography) are done in order to check for bone problems.

Assigning the Stage and Risks for Multiple Myeloma:

Once the initial tests have determined the condition, it is recommended to assign a stage to the disease. Doctors can use the information gained from diagnostic tests in order to assign Stage 1, 2 or 3 to the condition. Stage 1 indicates a disease in its least aggressive stage and Stage 3 points towards an aggressive condition which affects some of the vital organs such as bone, kidneys as well as other organs. 

Treatment and Drugs for Multiple Myeloma:

Once the doctor has monitored the symptoms for the condition, the treatment option can be worked out for the condition.

Though there is no known cure for myeloma, with a good treatment, the symptoms can be controlled and the patient can return back to a near normal activity.

Some of the most famous treatment options are as follows:

  1. Targeted Therapy: In this, the treatment works on controlling the specific abnormalities working within the cancer cells. Bortezomib and Carfilzomib are the best used drugs for Targeted Therapy which blocks the action of the myeloma cells. This causes the myeloma cells to die on their own.
  2. Biological Therapy: This therapy uses the immune system of the body in order to fight against the myeloma cells. Thaliomide, Lenalidomide and Pomalidomide enhance the working of the immune system and help the system to identify and kill the myeloma cells. This medication is prescribed in a pill form to the patient.
  3. Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses strong chemical drugs in order to kill the fast growing cancer cells. These drugs are either given in the form of pills or intravenously.
  4. Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids such as prednisone and dexamethasone can be given in order to regulate the immune system and control the inflammation within the body.
  5. Stem Cell Transplants: A stem cell transplant is a procedure in which the diseased bone marrow can be replaced with a healthy one. Before a stem cell transplant is done, the blood forming cells are collected from a healthy sample of the blood. Later on, a high dose of chemotherapy is given in order to kill the diseased bone marrow. The stem cells are then reinserted within the body, where they form a new and healthy bone marrow.
  6. Radiation Therapy: In this treatment option, beams of x rays are projected on the damaged myeloma cells in order to stop the further growth of the cells. Radiation therapy tends to shrink the myeloma cells in a specific area. 
Add Comment
Add Comment

Login to Add Comment

Comment as Guest