What is Multiple Myeloma? This type of cancer starts in the plasma cells. These cells are a type of white blood cell. They are in charge of producing antibodies, a vital part of your body’s immune system response. When you catch a cold or virus, antibodies allow you to fight the infection.
These cells are mostly found in the bone marrow, though they can be found in other organs and tissues throughout the body. Abnormal plasma cells in the bone marrow may behave in unusual ways. They may begin to divide at a rate that is faster than normal, leading to the generation of more abnormal plasma cells. These specific changes may lead to multiple myeloma or another precancerous condition. A precancerous condition is not yet cancer but it is likely to cause cancer in the future.
Symptoms for Multiple Myeloma
The signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma can be different on a case to case basis. In some cases, no symptoms present themselves and makes multiple myeloma very difficult to diagnose. However, there are still a variety of symptoms which may present themselves. Some of these symptoms include:
- Bone Pain - This bone pain is especially common in the chest or in the spine area.
- Weight Loss - This can be a common symptom of many conditions
- Loss of Appetite - This symptom tends to go together with weight loss, but it can be difficult to eat while on multiple myeloma.
- Excessive Thirst - In contrast to loss of appetite, multiple myeloma can cause those suffering from it to feel a constant need to drink.
- Nausea - This common symptom can be present with multiple myeloma.
- Confusion - This has been described as “mental fogginess” by some who suffer from it.
- Constipation - Multiple Myeloma can cause people to feel constipated.
- Frequent Urination - Not surprisingly, this symptom is often linked to the excessive thirst mentioned earlier.
- Weakness - People may feel numb or weak throughout their legs.
- Fatigue - Arguably the most common symptom of medical conditions, fatigue is a likely symptom.
Treatment for Multiple Myeloma
When multiple myeloma has been diagnosed and given a stage, your cancer care team can help you to discuss various medical and therapeutic treatments. Some of these may include:
- Targeted therapy. Targeted drug treatments focus on abnormalities within cancer cells which allow them to survive and reproduce. But targeted therapy drugs block these vital functions in order to curb myeloma cell growth. These drugs are administered intravenously.
- Biological therapy. This type of therapy gives your immune system a boost so that it can attack and fight myeloma cells. Certain biologically based drugs can help to make the immune system more effective in its fight against cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy medication kills cells that reproduce and grow quickly, including myeloma cells. These drugs can be administered in pill or intravenous form. Chemotherapy is used before other options.
- Corticosteroids. Corticosteroids help to monitor inflammation in the body. These drugs are very common, and are often used to treat other conditions. They help to fight myeloma cells in cases of multiple myeloma. They are taken as a pill or administered intravenously through the arm.
- Radiation therapy. This treatment uses powerful rays, including x-rays, to target myeloma cells and limit their growth. Radiation therapy is usually used to shrink cells in a single area, such as a tumor.
New Drug Developments
Recently there have been more drugs that have gained FDA approval for the treatment of multiple myeloma. One of the most promising is a type of biological therapy used in patients that have received a minimum of three prior treatments for the disease. Some medications have an antibody that may provide useful for patients whose cancer has become resistant to other forms of treatment. It is administered as an injection and works to boost the immune system’s ability to attack myeloma cells.