Myeloma, also referred to as multiple myeloma, is a cancer of the plasma cells. Plasma cells reside in the bone marrow and are usually known for making antibodies to protect you from infection.
Myeloma occurs when abnormal plasma cells collect and accumulate in the bone marrow, interfering with the production of normal blood cells. For unknown reasons, myeloma is more common in men than women and is twice as common in African Americans as European Americans. Most people with multiple myeloma have genetic abnormalities in their plasma cells contributing to the onset of disease.
The early stages of multiple myeloma may not produce any symptoms, however as the disease advances, multiple myeloma can cause serious health issues such as:
- Kidney problems / renal failure
- Bone damage and fractures
- High calcium levels in the blood causing excessive thirst, nausea, constipation, loss of appetite and confusion
- Fatigue caused by anemia
A doctor will perform a physical examination, review symptoms with the patient and perform testing for myeloma that can include:
Myeloma is usually an incurable chronic condition, but it can sometimes be cured by bone marrow transplantation. However, cancer treatments and therapies for myeloma can extend life and may enhance the quality of life for many people with the disease. If initial testing indicates the presence of myeloma, treatment may include:
- Steroidal therapies
- Protease inhibitors
- Stem cell transplants
- Bone marrow transplant
- Radiation therapy to reduce pain from bone lesions
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