What is Multiple Myeloma?
Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer, which affects the plasma cells within the body. Plasma cells are present within the bone marrow and are also a part of the immune system. Plasma cells appears when a type of white blood cell (B cells) responds to an infection in the body, when a B cell does this, it is matured and becomes a plasma cell. The way a plasma cell fights an infection off is by producing antibodies, which helps the body to recognize the infection and thereby attack and kill the germs.
In general, plasma cells are found within the bone marrow, and, like other cancer cells, plasma cells can also grow out of control. Plasma cells growing out of control is also known as multiple myeloma.
What are the symptoms of Multiple Myeloma?
There are several signs and symptoms for Multiple Myeloma, which can vary, considering the stage of the disease. In the beginning of a Multiple Myeloma disease, there might not be any signs or symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of Multiple Myeloma can e.g. be:
• Since the bones are affected, patients can experience bone pain or even fractures
• Due to lowered immune system, patients can experience; fatigue, fever, chills and other symptoms similar to having an infection
• Weight loss
What are the causes of Multiple Myeloma?
The specific reason why Multiple Myeloma appears is not yet clarified. When myeloma starts, it starts with one abnormal plasma cell, which then multiplies fast. These types of cells do not mature and die like normal plasma cells, but accumulate over time, so that they eventually overwhelm the production of healthy cells. This development will lead to a lowered immune system.
What are the treatments for Multiple Myeloma?
The purpose of the treatment for Multiple Myeloma is to relieve symptoms and prolong survival, since Multiple Myeloma is not curable. Generally, the treatment is controlled by doctors at the hematological departments and normally consists of chemotherapy, stem cell transplantation and/or radiation.
Besides treating the cancer, medication with the aim of relieving symptoms are given, these can e.g. be:
• Painkillers for bone pain
• Bone stabilizing treatment (treatment with monthly infusions of biphosphates)
• Antibiotics to treat infections
• Intravenous fluids, if there are electrolyte disorders (e.g. changes in sodium or potassium content in the blood)
• Plasmapheresis, if the blood needs to be purified (due to accumulation of antibodies which causes the blood to become thick)