Multiple Myeloma - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Srikanth R By Srikanth R, 18th Mar 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Health>General Health>Diseases & Infections

Multiple Myeloma is a type of cancer. This article provides useful information regarding risk factors, symptoms and treatment of multiple myeloma.

What is multiple myeloma?

The term "Myeloma" refers to cancer of plasma cells in the bone marrow. Healthy plasma cells are essential for a robust immune system. Plasma cells are found primarily in the bone marrow and develop from white blood cells. They fight disease causing micro-organisms. Under normal conditions body produces plasma cells only when needed to fight infections. Once infection is eliminated, the old plasma cells die off. Certain genetic mutations can cause plasma cells to continue to divide over and over again resulting in a tumor. These abnormal plasma cells are called myeloma cells. Since plasma cells originate from bone marrow, myeloma cells usually develop in the bone marrow. If there is one tumor, it is called solitary plasmacytoma. If there are several tumors throughout the bone marrow, the medical condition is called multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma is categorised under plasma cell dyscrasias. This disease is generally diagnosed by blood tests, X-Ray, urine tests and microscopic examination of the bone marrow.

Causes of multiple myeloma:

Experts have still not been able to determine the exact causes of multiple myeloma. But there are some risk factors. Research has shown that men are more likely to become victims of this ailment. Growing older increases the chances of developing this cancer. The risk of this disease is highest among African Americans and lowest among Asian Americans. People with MGUS are more likely to develop multiple myeloma. It may also be heredity. Case control studies have suggested a significant risk of developing multiple myeloma in individuals with significant exposures in agriculture, food, cosmetology and petrochemical industries. Multiple myeloma has also been linked to use of hair coloring products containing mutagenic and carcinogenic chemicals. Obesity is another risk factor.

Symptoms of multiple myeloma:

Excess amount of cancerous plasma cells in the bone marrow makes it harder for the bone marrow to produce red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Lower number of RBC (Red Blood Cells) in the blood stream leads to anaemia. Patient suffers extreme fatigue, lethargy and weakness. Insufficient amount of platelets may lead to bleeding and/or bruising. Low number of WBC (White Blood Cells) leads to susceptibility to infections. Mediators produced by myeloma cells stimulate osteoclasts (type of cells) to dissolve bones. This results in weak and brittle bones. Pain in the back and ribs is observed. Fevers without any particular cause is another common symptom. Arms and legs become weak. If the spinal chord is affected, it may lead to numbness and paralysis. Kidney failure, headache, feeling very thirsty, constipation, frequent urination, nausea, vomiting, nose bleeds, bleeding gums, weight loss, visual changes, loss of bowel and bladder control are other symptoms of this ailment.

Treatment of multiple myeloma:

As on date, there is no known cure for multiple myeloma. Doctors try to prolong survival by striving to maintain over all quality of the patient's life. The progress of the disease is observed and treatment varies with the stage the disease is in. Treatment is focused on relieving symptoms and avoiding complications. Treatment phases are initial chemotherapy, consolidation therapy, maintenance therapy and salvage therapy. Doctors decide the need for stem cell transplantation. Dexamethasone, bortezomib, pamidronate and revlimid are some medicines that are used in treating multiple myeloma.

Multiple myeloma is not contagious. Person suffering from this disease needs loving care.



Bone, Bone Marrow, Cancer, Marrow, Multiple Myeloma, Myeloma, Plasma Cell, Red Blood Cell, White Blood Cell

Meet the author

author avatar Srikanth R
Srikanth is a graduate in Mathematics, Economics and Statistics. He works full time. He loves writing as he says it is a great way to express his thoughts.

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author avatar Denise O
19th Mar 2011 (#)

Just a good info packed article. Thank you for sharing.:)

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