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What Is Myeloma?

Myeloma, sometimes referred to as Multiple Myeloma, is a type of bone marrow cancer. Bone Marrow is the spongy tissue found at the centre of some bones. It produces the body’s blood cells. Myeloma affects the plasma cells inside the bone marrow. It does not usually take the form of a lump or a tumour, instead, the Myeloma cells divide and expand within the bone marrow, damaging the bones and affecting the production of healthy blood cells.

Myeloma often affects many places in the body (hence called Multiple Myeloma) – commonly affected areas include the spine, skull, pelvis and ribs.

What Are The Symptoms Of Myeloma?

During the early stages, Myeloma may not cause any symptoms, however, it will eventually cause a wide range of problems including:

  • Pain in the bones, especially in the back, ribs and skull
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling of very thirsty
  • Frequent infections and fevers
  • Changes in frequency of urination
  • Restlessness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Numbness, especially in the legs.
What Causes Myeloma/ Multiple Myeloma?

Multiple Myeloma is an uncommon type of cancer and it is not known what causes the condition, however, it is more common in:

  • Men
  • Adults over 60 years of age – most cases are diagnosed at around the age of 70; cases affecting people under the age of 40 are rare
How Is Myeloma/ Multiple Myeloma Diagnosed?

Myeloma can be difficult to diagnose because it’s an uncommon type of cancer that initially has few or no symptoms.

The doctor on suspicion of Myeloma will order the following tests, such as:

  • Electrophoresis to test immunoglobulin
  • BUN (Blood Urea nitrogen) to check how well the kidneys are working
  • CBC (Complete Blood Count) to measure and count the cells in the blood
  • Urine Test
  • Bone Test

If Myeloma is suspected, a GP will refer the case to a Haematologist& a Haemato-Oncologist for further tests and subsequent treatment. And, to confirm the diagnosis of Myeloma, the Haematologist will perform a Bone Marrow Biopsy to check for myeloma cells.

How Is Myeloma/ Multiple Myeloma Treated?

While treatment can often control Myeloma, and improve the quality of life, it can’t usually be cured. And additional treatment is needed when the cancer relapses.

A Haematologist or Haemato-Oncologist has two main objectives while beginning the treatment of Myeloma,

  • Bring the Myeloma under control
  • Prevent and treat problems associated with Myeloma such as Anaemia and Bone Pain.

To bring Myeloma under control, the Haemato-Oncologist prescribes a combination of anti-myeloma medicines that might include:

  • Chemotherapy – mostly administered in a tablet form
  • Steroid Medicines that help destroy myeloma cells, thus making chemotherapy more effective

In some cases, the treatment could include a Stem Cell Transplant/ Bone Marrow Transplant that helps the bone marrow to recover.

Along with the above treatment, the doctor would need to administer treatment to help relieve the problems caused by the condition, such as: painkillers, radiotherapy, blood transfusions, dialysis, and plasma exchange.

What Are The Side Effects Of Treatment?

Side Effects of Chemotherapy: The side effects are often mild and might include: increased risk of infections, feeling sick, vomiting and hair loss.

Side Effects of Steroid Medicines: Heartburn, Indigestion, Increased Appetite, Mood Changes, Problems Falling Asleep