Multiple myeloma grows inside your plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cell. These cells play a significant function in your body, creating antibodies that help fight infection. However, if something goes the other way during cell divisions, the affected cells can live forever in your body.
There are some cases where patients having multiple myeloma live for years without facing any complications. And this type of case is commonly known as smoldering myeloma. However, with time, these cancerous cells or myeloma cells start affecting your body in a way where you can experience changes in your body. These changes affect your red blood cell numbers, kidneys, calcium levels, and even your bones.
Now, a burning question arises: how does multiple myeloma kill you and affect your body? So, in order to understand what Multiple myeloma is, its symptoms, treatments, and survival rates, we need to look into this cancer deeply.
Understanding What Is Multiple Myeloma
So, firstly, to understand how multiple myeloma affects your body, we must look into its meaning. Multiple myeloma, also referred to as myeloma, is one of the types of bone marrow cancer. It is an uncommon blood cancer that starts by affecting your body’s plasma cells. Furthermore, as previously mentioned, plasma cells are white blood cells that play a primary role in your immune system.
B cells are another name for plasma cells, and these cells have the job of creating antibodies. The antibodies that plasma cells make are known as immunoglobulins, which assist in fighting infection. One of the primary reasons for Multiple myeloma is when healthy cells change into abnormal cells. These abnormal cells then further multiply, resulting in the formation of abnormal antibodies known as M proteins.
In some cases, a person may have no symptoms of Multiple myeloma even if they’re suffering from it. However, if such a person takes a blood test, the results of that test will show existing signs of conditions that may turn into multiple myeloma in the future.
If your healthcare provider notices these conditions, they will track them by carefully monitoring your overall health instead of taking a treatment approach. Although your doctor cannot cure multiple myeloma, they can use various techniques to manage your symptoms and slow down the cancer’s progress.
What Is The First Sign Of Multiple Myeloma? Understanding Multiple Myeloma Symptoms
If you’re in the early stages of multiple myeloma, you may not experience any of its symptoms. However, in typical cases, when the symptoms start appearing, the first sign of multiple myeloma is pain in the bones. You can only catch the early signs of this cancer if you undergo a urine or blood test.
However, once myeloma starts progressing in your body, you will experience a vast range of multiple myeloma symptoms, including
- Weakness in the legs and arms or numbness sensation in both of them. This condition affects your spinal bones, which even results in collapse.
- The emergence of signs of anemia, such as fatigue. You will feel extremely weak and struggle to do your day-to-day tasks.
- Vomiting and Nausea may be the signs of hypercalcemia.
- Feeling extremely thirsty and not having an appetite.
- Unwanted weight loss.
- Unexplained fever, which may be a sign of a bacterial infection.
- Easy bleeding or bruising. This may be a sign of abnormal plasma.
- Feeling foggy or confused
The usual myeloma diagnosis consists of taking your blood and urine tests. This may not cause cancer, but it is better to have a proper diagnosis to avoid any risks. Speak to your healthcare provider if you notice any of these symptoms of multiple myeloma.
How Does Multiple Myeloma Kill You And Affect Your Body?
Multiple myeloma gives rise to many health complications in your body. This can include spinal cord compression, bone fractures, repeated infections, unusual bleeding, increased calcium levels, thickened blood, and multiple kidney problems. Multiple myeloma causes kidney damage, and there are many reasons for it. One of the primary reasons is abnormal proteins produced by these cancer cells that can cause kidney damage. Other than that, a few medications that help treat multiple myeloma are also responsible for kidney damage.
With time, multiple myeloma will decrease the functioning of your kidneys. Such a condition is known as renal failure. Furthermore, this condition can become fatal if you fail to get proper treatment or a kidney transplant on time.
Also, multiple myeloma symptoms take time to develop in your body. Furthermore, myeloma symptoms can even resemble other diseases or medical conditions. So, let’s take the help of a table to understand what medical problems and conditions are linked to multiple myeloma:
|Anemia||Your body lacks sufficient red blood cells due to the availability of multiple abnormal plasma cells occupying the entire space leaving no room for red blood cells.|
|Thrombocytopenia||You have insufficient platelets, which are cells that assist the blood to clot. This is because multiple abnormal plasma cells occupy the space of platelets and prevent the bone marrow from creating sufficient platelets.|
|Kidney problems/failure||Abnormal plasma cells give birth to M proteins that act as a blockage during the filtering process resulting in damage to the kidneys.|
|Bacterial infection||The multiplying of abnormal cells affects your body’s white blood cells, which help fight infection.|
|Bone fracture/bone pain||Abnormal plasma cells damage your bone tissues making your bones prone to pain and fracture.|
|Hyperviscosity syndrome||You can face the thickening of blood due to the presence of M proteins. Your heart will struggle to pump blood because of these abnormal plasma cells.|
|Amyloidosis||There is a build-up of abnormal proteins called amyloid proteins in your organs.|
|Cryoglobulinemia||Your blood proteins get clumped together when facing cold.|
|Hypercalcemia||The weakened and damaged bones in your body release too much calcium into the bloodstream.|
Also Read:- LUNG CANCER TREATMENT: TYPES, SURVIVAL RATE, AND RISK FACTORS
Risk Factors Of Multiple Myeloma: Is Multiple Myeloma Hereditary?
Understanding the risk factors of multiple myeloma is vital since the symptoms of this condition are not visible at starting stages. Furthermore, risk factors tell you your chances of developing multiple myeloma. An example of risk factors includes intense sunlight exposure to your skin, a known risk factor for skin cancer.
However, you must understand that risk factors don’t explain everything. There are some cases where individuals can develop this cancer even after having no risk factors. Furthermore, you may not catch this disease even if you have several risk factors related to it.
With those things in mind, let’s look at some risk factors which can increase a person’s chance of developing multiple myeloma.
With increasing age, a person’s chance of developing multiple myeloma rises too. According to several reports, less than 1% of people aged 35 or below have a chance of having this cancer. Furthermore, most individuals develop myeloma around the age of 65 or above.
Although the reason is unknown, men are more prone to developing multiple myeloma compared to women.
According to medical data, multiple myeloma is considered hereditary and seems to run in a few families. Suppose someone in your family, like your parent or sibling, has myeloma. In that case, your chances of developing this cancer increase more than someone with no family history of this cancer.
African Americans have more than twice the cases of multiple myeloma compared to white Americans. However, why it happens is still unknown to doctors.
Data reports that an obese or overweight person has an increased risk of having multiple myeloma.
History Of Other Plasma Cell Diseases
A patient of MGUS (monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance) or solitary plasmacytoma has a higher risk of having multiple myeloma compared to a person who never developed these diseases.
Multiple Myeloma Diagnosis: What Tests Do Health Care Providers Run?
If your symptoms and risk factors indicate you have multiple myeloma, your healthcare will run different tests on you to confirm your condition. They may run blood, urine, and imaging tests in order to verify whether you have myeloma. Furthermore, if you have developed this cancer, these tests will help your healthcare provider to know whether you’re in an early stage or late stage.
So, let’s see the different tests your healthcare provider may run to diagnose multiple myeloma.
CBC (Complete Blood Count)
This test includes measuring your white and red blood cell numbers, the concentration level of your red blood cell, and the hemoglobin amount in the red blood cells.
For this test, the healthcare provider will ask you to store your urine for a period of 24 hours. After that period, they will test your urine sample for Bence Jones protein, a sign of myeloma.
Blood Chemistry Test
With this test, your doctor will measure your creatine levels, which shows how well your kidneys function, calcium levels, LDH, and albumin levels. Lactic dehydrogenase levels are a tumor marker, a substance in healthy or cancerous cells that respond to cancer.
This test confirms the damage your bones have suffered due to multiple myeloma.
Quantitative Immunoglobulin Test
This type of blood test measures certain antibodies in your blood.
In this test, the doctor looks for the presence of M proteins in the blood.
Computed Tomography (CT) Scan
Another test method doctors use to analyze bone damage due to this cancer.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scan
The test makes use of strong magnets and radio waves to help obtain detailed images of your spine and bones. Furthermore, your doctor may use this test to find plasmacytomas, a single group of irregular plasma cells.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan
Another test your healthcare provider may run to test for plasmacytomas.
Bone Marrow Biopsies
Your doctor may run bone marrow biopsies to confirm the amount of abnormal and normal plasma cells in the bone marrow. Additionally, they may run tests on your sample of bone marrow to look for the changes in the DNA which might be responsible for cancer
What Are The Best Multiple Myeloma Treatments? Is Multiple Myeloma Curable?
Depending on your symptoms and the extent of the disease, your doctor may use different treatments to treat your multiple myeloma. If we take an example, people with MGUS typically aren’t required to take any of these treatments. However, in such cases, their doctor will ask them to visit regularly to examine their condition closely.
Other than that, these doctors may create a treatment plan as a preventive measure so they can be prepared if symptoms appear. However, you must remember that these multiple myeloma treatments can only help control this condition’s symptoms. Furthermore, they may help manage your situation, but these treatments will not entirely eliminate myeloma.
So, to answer the question, is multiple myeloma curable? No, multiple myeloma isn’t curable using these treatments. So, if this condition does appear again, your healthcare provider will use other therapies to get your myeloma under control.
Now, let’s see what types of treatments are used by healthcare providers to treat multiple myeloma:
Your doctor will use high doses of steroids to lower inflammation and eliminate cancer cells.
You’re prone to develop more infections if you have a weak immune system which can happen because of myeloma. So, to deal with it, your healthcare provider may suggest some antibiotics to get rid of these infections.
As bone pain is a common symptom in patients with multiple myeloma, your doctor will suggest you some pain management medication to relieve the pain.
This treatment helps reduce bone tumors by killing off cancer cells. Your healthcare provider will not recommend this if you have already previously taken this treatment to treat this cancer.
This type of treatment helps lower the number of abnormal plasma cells. Your doctor may use it with some other therapies for myeloma.
This treatment stimulates the immune system, which can help develop cancer-fighting cells in your body.
Stem Cell Transplants
Stem cells help increase the production of healthy plasma cells in your blood or bone marrow. Your doctor may suggest autologous stem cell transplants as one of the treatments for multiple myeloma. With this treatment, your healthcare provider replaces unhealthy or damaged stem cells in your body with new stem cells.
Multiple Myeloma Prognosis / Multiple Myeloma Survival Rate
According to the data on the five-year survival rate for individuals who have multiple myeloma, the survival rate of myeloma ranges from 40 to 82 percent. Furthermore, few individuals live for more than ten years after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Also, if your healthcare provider catches your condition at its early stages and provides suitable treatment, your chances to live longer increases.
As per the R-ISS data, 78% of individuals are alive after five years of being diagnosed with single plasmacytoma. Make sure you remember that this statistical data doesn’t consider the factors such as overall health or age when deciding on these averages. Therefore, you must consult your healthcare provider if you have multiple myeloma. They will provide you with accurate information which will be according to your specific condition.
Multiple myeloma is one of the rarest blood cancers that affect a person’s plasma cells. Worldwide, healthcare providers are working on finding a cure for myeloma, but it is still an incurable condition. While your doctors cannot cure your cancer, they can help treat the symptoms and slow down its progress. You can live for years after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
Whatever the case, cancer is always likely to return to your body. So, you have to live with this condition while running through various tests and treatments from time to time. At University Cancer Centers, we understand that living with myeloma isn’t easy, and we know all the challenges that come with it.
Our team of healthcare providers can help you find the best treatment for your condition by learning your symptoms and family history and diagnosing it thoroughly. We will stay with you in your entire journey of fighting cancer and provide the best support we can. To schedule an appointment, you can contact our support staff at (713)-474-1414. Also, you can fill out the patient form on our website so we can learn more about you. We have convenient location options, and you choose the one that suits you the best.