Symptoms and Treatments for Myeloma

by Calyn Ehid
Multiple myeloma is a fairly rare disease that occurs when cancer cells grow in the body’s plasma cells. These special types of white blood cells help the body eliminate infections by recognizing the problem and producing the right antibodies. Once the cancer cells start to grow, they find a way to live in the bone marrow. This prevents the healthy white blood cells from producing infection-fighting antibodies. If this is allowed to happen over a long period of time, then serious complications can start to develop.

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Causes of Myeloma

There currently is not a known cause for multiple myeloma. It is believed that most patients with this cancer had a benign condition called MGUS at some point in their life. While that condition does not cause any serious problems, it often develops into multiple myeloma later in life. You are also at a much higher risk of developing this rare form of cancer if you are over the age of 60 and have a family history of the disease.

When to Expect Symptoms

Just like most forms of cancer, multiple myeloma does not cause any symptoms in the early stages. The symptoms start to appear after the cancer cells overrun the healthy plasma cells in the bone marrow. The most common symptoms of this serious disease are nausea, loss of appetite, frequent infections and fatigue. You will also like experience severe pain in the bones in your chest and spine. These bone issues can become so bad that you have frequent fractures.

Different Types of Treatment Options

In order to determine the correct treatment options, your condition must be diagnosed using a series of tests. Simple blood, urine and imaging tests are usually enough to determine if you are suffering from this form of cancer. The doctor will also take a sample of your bone marrow to determine the severity of your cancer. Aggressive forms of the cancer will obvious need more drastic treatment methods.

If your multiple myeloma is caught early, then there is a chance that you will not even need to undergo treatment. You will just have to come in for periodic urine and blood tests to monitor the progress of the cancer. Treatment is reserved for patients that are experiencing problematic symptoms or seeing their cancer cells multiply at a rapid rate.

There are several different therapy drugs that can help multiple myeloma. These drugs are designed to help the body fight against the myeloma cells. The goal is to enhance the immune system and kill the cancer cells. These drugs are usually prescribed in pill form so they can be taken at home on a daily basis.

Once these drugs start to produce positive results, you will then undergo a bone marrow transplant. The goal is to remove the damaged and diseased portion of bone marrow. This is replaced with healthy bone marrow from a donor. If you are not a good candidate for a marrow transplant, then your treatment will shift to chemotherapy. Your age and overall health will determine if you can handle the bone marrow transplant.