Multiple Myeloma: Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Treatment
The American Cancer Society has designated different months as “cancer awareness months” for various types of cancer, and one of the cancers that it has chosen to bring attention to in March is multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma is a relatively rare type of cancer; the American Cancer Society states that the risk of getting multiple myeloma during your lifetime is less than 1%. It affects the plasma cells in your blood.
Plasma cells are necessary to produce antibodies, which help fight disease and infection. Most of your blood cells, including your plasma cells, are made in your bone marrow. With multiple myeloma, your bone marrow produces cancerous plasma cells instead of healthy ones. As a result, instead of giving you effective antibodies, these cancerous plasma cells produce abnormal proteins that do not help you fight disease and that can even cause harm.
There is currently no cure for multiple myeloma. However, there are some effective treatments, and more is being learned about the condition every day that may lead to breakthroughs in helping multiple myeloma patients live longer and maintain a higher quality of life.
What are the Risk Factors for Multiple Myeloma?
There is no known cause of multiple myeloma, although data indicate that certain individuals are more likely to develop it. Multiple myeloma shows up more commonly in people who are:
- Over 65 years old
- Overweight or obese
- Of African descent
- Related to someone with multiple myeloma
- Diagnosed as having other plasma cell diseases
Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma
At early stages, there may be no symptoms indicating anything is wrong – indeed, not as serious as cancer. The result is that the condition is often not diagnosed until cancer has reached more advanced stages.
When symptoms do arise, they can vary from person to person, and they commonly occur with other health problems, so the symptoms do not clearly indicate multiple myeloma. Possible symptoms can include:
- Lack of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme thirst
- Mental fog
- Bone pain, often in the chest or back
- Weakness in the legs
Since these symptoms can also indicate other health problems, multiple myeloma is diagnosed by looking at several factors and performing testing. Initially, there may be indicators in a blood test in which your complete blood count and levels of creatinine, calcium, albumin, or other electrolytes are abnormal. This will be followed by a urine test, a more detailed blood analysis, a biopsy, and various imaging tests.
Because multiple myeloma inhibits your body’s ability to fight infection, it can lead to increased infections, weakened bones, kidney problems, anemia, and other blood problems if left undiagnosed and untreated.
Treatment for Multiple Myeloma
Treatment for multiple myeloma is tailored to each individual based on the stage of cancer. In some cases, when cancer progresses very slowly, it is possible to opt for no immediate treatment but only to monitor your condition. Depending upon the situation, treatment may involve targeted therapy, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, a bone marrow transplant, or a combination of therapies.
Beacon Clinic specializes in providing comprehensive cancer care to patients diagnosed with all types of cancer, including multiple myeloma. Our goal is to provide patients with a suite of medical and supportive services, helping them tailor an individualized treatment plan designed to meet their needs and comport with their personal priorities.
Beacon Clinic offers many medical therapies in-house, including targeted therapy, immunotherapy, oral chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. We also have phlebotomy services in our facility to relieve our patients from having to access different medical services from different locations. In some cases, our facility can provide access to cutting-edge therapies available through clinical trials.
In addition to medical services, our cancer center offers supportive services, including nutritional consultation, financial counseling, care coordination, support groups, and referrals to other professionals and industry experts, such as mental health providers, physical therapists, naturopaths, chiropractors, more. We also assist and support caregivers, knowing that cancer often affects more than the patient.
If you have been diagnosed with multiple myeloma and would like some guidance and support in your cancer journey, please get in touch with Beacon Clinic. We can help you and your family navigate a way forward.