Myeloma is the cancer that develops on the plasma cell. The condition in which group of plasma cells (myeloma cells) become malignant (cancerous) is known as multiple myeloma. The cancer causing cells start multiplying rapidly affecting more number of myeloma cells or white blood cells. As the plasma cells (myeloma cells) is responsible for producing proteins that fight against infections, the body’s immunity gets impaired when myeloma becomes cancerous. This would ultimately affect the normal functioning of bones, kidneys and total immune system. However, myeloma can be cured by effective methods of treatment.
White blood cells are found in the bone marrow and protect the body against infection. Red blood cells are the cells that transport oxygenated blood to the tissues present in the body. Platelets are a type of cells that aids in clotting of blood that helps the body to recover from loss of blood during injury. These are the major three types of blood cells.
Plasma cells are a type of white blood cells which produces protein to fight against infection thus protecting the body from virus, bacteria and other germs. During myeloma, these plasma cells abnormally starts developing cancer causing cells in fast rate that will not allow the body to destroy dead cells.
Exact reason that causes multiple myeloma is unknown. But factors like old-age, lowered immunity, belonging to specific race (African American) and family history induces the risk of getting myeloma. If a person has illness like MGUS (Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance) in which abnormal M protein cells are produced, then it increases the risk of getting myeloma. But this disorder is not contagious.
It all begins suddenly when one plasma cell becomes abnormal which would eventually multiply in number causing damage to the healthy blood cells.
Some of the common signs of multiple myeloma are broken bones (fracture), abnormal pain in the bones (more specific in back and ribs), and loss of weight, unusually thirsty, fever, fatigue, nausea and frequent urination. Symptoms may vary from one individual to another. It can cause kidney problems and even failure due to increased level of M proteins in blood. High level of calcium can cause multiple problems like confusion, nausea, vomiting and constipation.
The person becomes susceptible to repeated infectious diseases like pneumonia, sinus, kidney infection and other skin infections. He may also get anemia (reduced iron content in blood) since the fast growing myeloma cells will replace the regular oxygenated red blood cells.
Routine blood test can help your doctor to detect the presence of multiple myeloma. It can also be identified due to repeated fractures. The doctor may also test the urine and a biopsy of cancer causing cells.
In case there is no symptoms of myeloma then no treatment is required, but you need to regularly visit the doctor for monitoring the health condition.
The doctor would prescribe Bortezomib intravenously to destroy the cancer causing cells in white blood cell. Thalidomide and Lenalidomide are other drugs given for treating multiple myeloma. But these medicines are given for curing the symptoms of patients with initial diagnoses.
Chemotherapy is the standard treatment given for curing the symptoms. It is given either orally or in the form of IV injection to reduce the number of M proteins in plasma cell. Corticosteroids are traditionally given for treating multiple myeloma.
Apart from these, there may be some complications in particular organ for which you need to take separate treatment.
Stem cell transplant is done for many people with multiple myeloma in which high dosage of medicines are given for killing both myeloma and healthy cells. Eventually, healthy stem cells are injected to the person through vein.