Multiple myeloma results when cancer cells accumulate and crowd out healthy blood cells in the bone marrow. Unlike healthy cells that produce desirable antibodies, cancer cells produce abnormal proteins that can result in undesirable health complications. A wide variety of treatment options are available for treating the health condition.
Myeloma starts with a single abnormal plasma cell in the bone marrow, which is a soft, blood-producing tissue that fills most of the bones. The abnormal cell multiplies at a very fast pace. Unfortunately, there’s no clarity as to whether or what causes myeloma. Cancer cells, unlike healthy cells, don’t mature and die. As a result, they accumulate and demur the production of healthy cells. In the bone marrow, myeloma cells crowd out healthy white blood cells (WBCs), resulting in the inability of the immune system to fight infections, thereby causing fatigue.
Even though myeloma cells try to produce antibodies, it results in the creation of abnormal antibodies unusable by the body. Medically known as the M (Monoclonal) proteins, these harmful antibodies accumulate and damage different body parts, such as the kidneys. Cancel cells also elevate the risk of broken bones.
During early stages of the multiple myeloma, there are usually no symptoms. They appear as the disease progresses. Moreover, signs and symptoms can vary from case to case. Various symptoms associated with the fatal disease are:
- Bone pain, particularly in chest or spine
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent infections
- Loss of appetite
- Numbness or weakness in legs
- Weight loss
Multiple myeloma life expectancy
Multiple myeloma life expectancy for affected individuals with regular treatment is still under research. According to a SEER (Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results) data published in 2013 by the National Cancer Institute, average life expectancy for myeloma patients is four years. Some people included in the research study even demonstrated a life expectancy of 10 years and more.
Several factors increase the risk of developing multiple myeloma. Some of the prominent factors are:
- Aging: Most people with myeloma are diagnosed in their mid-60s. With age, risk of developing multiple myeloma increases.
- Gender: Men more likely to develop myeloma than women.
- Black people: The black population is about two times more likely to develop the disease than the white populace.
- Heredity: People with an affected parent, brother or sister are more likely to develop the disease.
- Persons with a history of MGUS: Each year, around one percent of people affected with Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance (MGUS) in the country develop myeloma.
Several complications can come along with myeloma. Some of the most commonly observed ones include the following:
- Bone problems: Myeloma cells are responsible for affecting bone marrow, hence resulting in thinning of the bones and increased chances of broken bones.
- Frequent infections: Myeloma cells affect our body’s ability to fight infections and hence, frequent infections can hint towards having multiple myeloma.
- Low red blood cell count (anemia): Anemia is the inability of the body to procure enough red blood cells. Myeloma cells crowd out healthy blood cells; thus they can result in anemia and other blood-related problems.
- Reduced kidney function: A higher calcium level in the blood, caused typically by eroding bones, may interfere with the kidney’s ability to filter blood waster. M proteins produced by myeloma cells can result in similar conditions and therefore, it could result in kidney-related issues, even kidney failure.
There are several different medical treatments that are used to treat various stages of multiple myeloma. Before advancing to the treatment of a patient suffering from myeloma, it’s imperative to stage the disease. The use of different medical treatments and their intensity depends on the stage, i.e. extent of the myeloma. The commonly used treatment for multiple myeloma includes the use of:
- Bisphosphonates: Though bisphosphonates are chiefly used to treat osteoporosis, these drugs are also used in many other diseases, including multiple myeloma. These prescription drugs help in recovering loss in bone density.
- Chemotherapy: Anti-cancer drugs are used as part of a standardized chemotherapy regimen. There are several uses of such drugs, ranging from curing diseases, as well as increasing life expectancy.
- Plasmapheresis: Plasmapheresis is the wide field of medical treatment involving removal, treatment, and exchange of blood plasma components from the blood circulation system.
- Radiation therapy: Normally used for controlling the number of malignant cells, radiation therapy is also used in some cases to treat multiple myeloma.
- Stem cell transplantation: Also known as hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, stem cell transplantation involves injecting hematopoietic stem cells into a person. These cells help in restoring the original number of healthy blood cells in an affected organ.
- Surgery: Surgical operations are available for removing myeloma-affected part of a body organ. However, it is used mostly in cases where the myeloma cells haven’t spread to other body parts.