It is important you tell your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms of multiple myeloma, so he or she may determine their cause and plan treatment, if necessary.
What is Multiple Myeloma?
Our B cells are a type of immune system cell responsible for defending the body against infection. When an invading substance or microorganism is detected by a B cell, the B cell can differentiate into plasma cells. Plasma cells normally reside in the bone marrow and produce antibodies specifically designed to combat the invader. Multiple myeloma occurs when these plasma cells become cancerous and multiply uncontrollably. These dividing plasma cells may form what’s known as a “plasmacytoma.” Plasmacytomas usually develop in bone tissue but may, in some rare cases, occur in other areas of the body. When someone only has one plasmacytoma, it’s known as a “solitary plasmacytoma” whereas if they have more than one, they have what’s known as “multiple myeloma.”
Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Myleoma
The following may be indicative of multiple myeloma but may also be indicative of other illnesses:
- Back pain
- Bone fracture
- Bone pain
- Frequent infection
- Frequent urination
- Impaired kidney function
- Increased thirst
- Loss of appetite
It is important you tell your doctor if you have any of these signs and symptoms, so he or she may determine their cause and plan treatment, if necessary.
How Is Multiple Myeloma Detected?
Our specialists collect information regarding medical history, surgical history, social history, and family history; conduct laboratory testing, and review radiological studies to approach patient care in the most comprehensive and personalized manner.
The blood test normally used to assess for blood disorders is known as the “Complete Blood Count.” This test will allow your doctor to determine if you have an abnormal amount of anyone or any combination of blood cell types. To investigate a suspicious finding further, your doctor may choose to order a flow cytometry or bone marrow biopsy. A flow cytometry is a cell counting technique used to gather more information about cells in the blood. A bone marrow biopsy is a tissue sampling technique used to determine the composition of the bone marrow and whether or not it is involved by an abnormality, such as a myeloproliferative neoplasm.
In order to determine which parts of the body are involved by either a plasmacytoma or multiple myeloma, a doctor will likely order an imaging study. Imaging studies might include a CT scan, PET scan, PET-CT scan, or X-ray. A CT (computed tomography) scan uses X-rays to generate a three-dimensional picture of the body whereas a PET (positron emission tomography) scan uses a small amount of radioactive tracer to locate any cancer cells by how readily they take up the radiotracer. A PET-CT combines the features of a CT scan with those of a PET scan.
What Causes Myelodysplastic Syndromes?
Myelodysplastic syndromes generally occur either because there has been damage to the bone marrow or because bone marrow cells possess a genetic abnormality, such as a deletion of genetic material from chromosome 5 in the case of MDS associated with isolated del(5q). Although an increased likelihood of developing an MDS is associated with the following factors, MDS often develops without a readily identifiable cause:
- Personal history of chemotherapy
- Exposure to tobacco smoke
- Exposure to benzene
- Exposure to heavy metals
- Exposure to Agent Orange
- Exposure to pesticides
- Exposure to radiation
How Is Multiple Myeloma Treated?
Treatment of multiple myeloma, depending on the extent of disease involvement, may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, and/or other therapeutic approaches. These treatments may be used individually or in combination based on your doctor’s recommendations. It’s important to discuss all of your treatment options with your doctor to help make the decision that best fits your needs. Some important factors to consider when deciding on a treatment plan include
- Your age, health, and lifestyle.
- The extent of your multiple myeloma.
- Any other serious health conditions you have.
- Your feelings about the need to treat the multiple myeloma right away.
- Your doctor’s opinion about if you need to treat the multiple myeloma right away.
- The likelihood that treatment will help fight your multiple myeloma.
- Possible side effects of each treatment method.
You may feel the need to make a quick decision, but it is very important to ask questions if there is anything about which you’re not entirely sure. It is very important for you and your doctor to communicate and work together to weigh the benefits of each treatment option against the possible adverse effects in order to ultimately determine which treatment option is best for you.