Multiple myeloma impacts blood cells called plasma, which play a crucial role in helping the immune system fight pathogens, diseases, and other potentially serious invaders. When plasma cells function optimally, said components create important germ-eliminating materials called antibodies.
As multiple myeloma develops and progresses, these abnormally-growing cells gather inside the bone marrow and eventually overtake healthy organisms like red blood cells. Moreover, these cancerous tissues produce health-impeding proteins.
Researchers cannot pinpoint one specific underlying cause. However, said medical professionals suggest that certain risk factors might heighten one's chances of developing the disease. Such factors include:
The disease can occur at any age. That said, an individual's risk increases as they grow older. Typically, a significant percentage of cases are diagnosed in persons age 65 and over.
Persons with a close family member, such as a parent or sibling who had the disease stand at an increased risk of being stricken with this malignancy.
Subjects with a history of an illness called Monoclonal Gammopathy Of Undetermined Significance, abbreviated as MGUS, are considered at greater risk. The plasma of said souls produce excessive quantities of substances called M proteins.
The African-American Race
Researchers have concluded that African-American persons have a greater chance of developing multiple myeloma than those of other races and ethnic groups.
Scientists maintain that men are more likely to contract the malady than women.
In an appreciable number of instances, the early stages of the ailment produce few, if any, symptoms. When manifestations do present, they might include digestive issues like appetite loss, constipation, and nausea, and general issues, like weakness, weight loss, and tiredness.
As the disease advances, more pronounced and serious problems may ensue including:
One must reiterate that multiple myeloma adversely impacts infection-fighting cells. Therefore, the immune system can be compromised and afflicted subjects often experience an increased number of infections or other opportunistic ailments.
Considering diseased plasma cells accumulate inside the bone marrow, it should not be surprising that multiple myeloma patients may encounter bone pain and injuries like fractures.
The malignancy could ultimately result in kidney problems. This could interfere with the body's capacity to process and rid itself of illness-causing waste products.
As abnormal plasma cells continue to develop, the bone marrow's red blood cell concentration continues to decline. Eventually, this will precipitate a potentially dangerous condition known as anemia.
Physicians may conclude a multiple myeloma diagnosis employing various diagnostic tools including:
Sometimes, the urine of persons with the disease show large quantities of M proteins.
A stricken subject's blood might also contain measurable sums of M proteins. Moreover, a thorough examination of a patient's blood might also suggest other pertinent factors, such as kidney function, calcium concentrations, and systemic levels of uric acid.
Bone Marrow Extraction
Physicians who suspect multiple myeloma might opt to examine the patient in question's bone marrow. Doctors perform what is known as a biopsy. Said healthcare providers will insert a long needle into a patient's bones and collect a sample of bone marrow. Once the sample is collected, it is brought to a laboratory for closer examination.
If the preceding tests prove inconclusive, a doctor might order internal imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging, computerized tomography, X-Rays, or positron emission tomography. These apparatuses enable medical professionals to examine internal scans of the bones and identify existing abnormalities.
Potential Treatment Options
Treatment will depend on numerous different factors. Arguably, however, the most crucial issue is the stage the cancer is in at diagnosis. This will determine the most appropriate treatment and how aggressive said therapy must be. That said, specific remedial protocols might include:
In certain instances, those diagnosed with the condition experience no symptoms and little, if any, the progression of cancer. Subjects fitting this category might benefit from watchful waiting. This means the patient's medical team will carefully monitor the illness and react accordingly should the need arise.
Those necessitating treatment might undergo:
This standard form of treatment involves the use of cancer-killing agents to eradicate abnormal plasma cells.
Radiation sources like X-Rays are employed to either shrink or kill multiple myeloma cells.
Drugs like corticosteroids might fend off myeloma cells. However, these preparations often prove useful in strengthening the immune system by reducing disease-stimulating processes like inflammation.
This therapeutic effort targets specific weaknesses identified in diseased cells and ultimately result in their destruction.
Researchers opine that multiple myeloma cells are dangerous because the proteins they produce enables them to hide from immune system cells. Immunotherapy uses the immune system to reverse this process.
Bone Marrow Transplant
In advanced cases or when the preceding treatments prove unsuccessful, the patient might be a candidate for bone marrow transplantation. During this procedure, fouled marrow is replaced with new, fresh material.
That said, transplantation occurs over a multi-step process. The first stage involves collecting stem cells from the blood. The patient then undergoes intense chemotherapy geared towards eradicating the existing diseased bone marrow. Once the body recovers, the stem cells are infused into the patient's bones with designs on generating new bone marrow.