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Multiple Myeloma - Introduction

Myeloma, medically known as multiple myeloma, is a malignant cancer which originates from the plasma cells, a type of the white blood cells. The plasma cells are normally produced in the bone marrow and then transfered by lymphatic system. In multiple myeloma the production of plasma cells is excessive, they grow and multiply rapidly and uncontrollably causing tumor masses which lead to destruction of the bone marrow and the bone. Multiple myeloma cells may accumulate in many bones. There are several treatment modalities for multiple myeloma and they may even be combined in order to eradicate the disease or at least to alleviate the symptoms caused by the tumor.

The cause of multiple myeloma is not known but there are certain factors which may contribute to its occurrence. Namely, this malignant tumor is more frequent in obese people and those with history of 'monoclonal gammapathy of undetermined significance'. It also affects men more than women. Exposure to radiation and certain chemical may be the trigger for multiple myeloma. And finally, multiple myeloma is more frequent among African Americans and Asian Americans.

Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma

Initial stage of multiple myeloma is practically asymptomatic and in this stage the disease can be only found accidentally. After the tumor has grown to certain size it causes symptoms such as bone pain, osteoporosis, fatigue, anemia, frequent infections and weight loss. Pain in bones is caused by osteolysis. The growth of the tumor may also cause pathological fractures. Patients suffering from multiple myeloma have abnormal M-protein in the urine and its presence is actually symptomatic for the disease. Furthermore, destruction of the bones leads to hypocalcaemia which features with nausea, excessive thirst and urination, constipation, loss of appetite, fatigue and problems with thinking or confusion.

Treatment for Multiple Myeloma

Treatment for multiple myeloma includes chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, transplantation of the bone marrow and transplantation of stem cells. There are several more medications which have recently started to be administered in patients suffering from multiple myeloma. They include bortezomib, thalidomide and lenalidomide. Some symptoms of either tumor or therapy may be alleviated by corticosteroids.

Chemotherapy for multiple myeloma includes administration of chemotherapeutics which kill the tumor cells but also cause damage to healthy cells. Radiation therapy is applied only in localized form of the disease. It may help with pain caused by bone destruction and also induces re-growth of the affected bone. Immunotherapy includes medications which stimulate the immune system to destroy tumor cells. Bone marrow transplantation and stem cell transplantation can be applied only in selected patients. The prognosis of the disease basically depends on the stage of multiple myeloma. It is best when the tumor is found in the early stage.

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