Multiple myeloma is a form of cancer that develops in the plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cells present in the bone marrow. Plasma cells generate antibodies that identify and attack infection-causing germs in the body. Due to multiple myeloma, cancerous cells accumulate in the bone marrow. The healthy cells are crowded out by these cancerous cells. These cells create unhealthy proteins that lead to complications. Multiple myeloma is a rare form of cancer. It has been known to affect 1 in around 147 people in the country. It is more common among men than among women.
Common causes of multiple myeloma
The exact cause of multiple myeloma is not known. However, there are certain known risk factors that increase the probability of multiple myeloma.
- Age: Multiple myeloma is usually diagnosed among people who are in their mid-60s. People become more prone to multiple myeloma as they age.
- Gender: It has been observed that multiple myeloma is more common among men than women.
- Family history: The risk for multiple myeloma increases if there has been a family history of this form of cancer. The probability increases if any one of the parents or a sibling has multiple myeloma.
- History of MGUS: Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) is a disorder in which an abnormal protein called monoclonal protein is produced in the blood. It has been observed that nearly 1% people with MGUS develop multiple myeloma.
Common symptoms of multiple myeloma
During the early stages of multiple myeloma, there are no apparent symptoms. The symptoms, once they start developing, will differ from person to person. The following are some of the common symptoms of multiple myeloma.
- Pain in the bones, specifically in the chest or spine
- A feeling of nausea
- Appetite loss
- Constant feeling of tiredness
- Susceptible to infections
- Sudden loss of weight
- Numbness or weakness in the legs
- Excessive feeling of thirst
Treatments for multiple myeloma
Treatments of multiple myeloma work towards alleviating pain symptoms, controlling the growth of cancerous cells, and stabilizing the other symptoms. In the early stages, doctors usually do not recommend any immediate treatments. However, a patient with multiple myeloma will continue to undergo routine checkups to monitor the progression of the disease.
Through routine urine tests and blood test, a doctor will be able to detect the signs of progression of multiple myeloma. Once the symptoms become apparent, a course of treatment will follow. Some of the common treatment options include the following:
- Targeted therapy: This involves the use of medications that target a specific substance in the cancerous cells and prevent them from multiplying. The medications are injected into a vein. Targeted therapy medications include the use of monoclonal antibody medications.
- Chemotherapy: This therapy is done by injecting chemotherapy medications into the veins or by ingesting chemotherapy pills. These medications fight the fast-growing cancerous cells and kill them. Chemotherapy can be done as a standalone treatment or in combination with another treatment.
- Biological therapy: This therapy involves the use of medications that boost the immune system. The cells in the immune system will identify and fight the cancer cells. This prevents the cancerous cells from multiplying and growing. Biological therapy medications are taken in the form of pills.
- Corticosteroids: Generally used for controlling inflammation in the body, corticosteroids are also effective against myeloma cells. These medications can be injected into the veins or taken in the form of pills.