The term myeloma refers to cancer of specialtypes of white blood cells called plasma cells. Plasma cells are importantcomponents of the immune system. They help the body's immune system in resistingthe disease by producing substances called antibodies. Plasma cells are locatedmainly in the bone marrow and grow from white blood cells called B-lymphocytes.When microorganisms invade the body, the process gets out of control andnumerous abnormal plasma cells are formed. Myeloma cells are formed in the bone marrow.
Certain genetic mutations can cause plasma cellsto become abnormal and persist to divide over and over again until they finallyshape a tumor.Abnormal plasma cells, or myeloma cells are cancercells that produce a peculiar type of antibody called M proteins.The M proteins in patients with multiple myelomacan be found in the blood or urine by specialized techniques known asprotein electrophoresis and immunofixation.When the cancer cells develop in the bone marrow,they can lead to pain and destruction of the bones.In addition, when the bones in the spine areaffected, it can put a pressure on the nerves, which leads to numbness orparalysis.The true cause of multiple myeloma is stillunknown. However, several factors have been connected to myeloma, such as geneticabnormalities, exposure to certain chemicals, radiation, certain viralinfections and immune system dysfunction.Multiple myeloma occurs a little more frequentlyin men than in women. Multiple myeloma is considered to be a disease of olderpersons.The most common symptom is back pain. Othersymptoms may include symptoms of anemia (such as tiredness, shortness ofbreath), unexplained fractures, bleeding problems, increased susceptibility toinfection, food aversion, constipation.
Most often, myeloma is detected when blood testsreveal anemia or a high level of protein. A urine test may show protein in theurine. Sometimes, a chest x-ray will identify osteoporosis in the spine or acompression of a vertebral body. Examination of the bone marrow is neededto make the diagnosis of myeloma and to evaluate the extent of the disease. Abone marrow biopsy should also be done.Staging is significant because it helps theoncologist establish the optimal timing of therapy, the best type of treatment,and the chance for remission and survival of each person with myeloma.
Multiple myeloma is a disorder that has a tendencyto grow worse over time. However, the aim of treatment is to relieve the symptoms.Treatment options that may be recommended are: medicines(involving antibiotics to prevent infections, regulate kidney problems or control anemia), chemotherapy (mostly combined with steroids), bone marrowtransplantation, transfusions to prevent systemic anemia and radiation.