Myeloma, or multiple myeloma, is cancer of a blood cell known as a plasma cell. Myeloma begins where blood cells are made, in the bone marrow. The bone marrow is in the spongy center of certain bones. Myeloma, according to scientific research, is found in any bone where marrow is active.
Multiple myeloma affects only one type of white blood cell and that cell is the plasma cell. This cell is a big part of your immune system. When a virus or bacteria enters your body, white blood cells change into plasma cells to help fight off the bacteria or germs. When myeloma sets in, plasma cells become abnormal and don’t reproduce in a normal fashion. What happens next is that the cancerous plasma cells, the myeloma cells, divide and grow out of control and build up in the marrow and begin to crowd out other healthy blood cells. When this happens, you have a higher risk of getting an infection, experiencing blood-clotting problems and anemia.
Types of Myeloma
- MGUS or monoclonal gammopathy is when there is low count of myeloma cells in the bone marrow. Often the cells do not turn into a tumor and little to no treatment is required. MGUS is not cancer, but once one develops MGUS it is important to see a physician twice a year to ensure that MGUS does not progress.
- Indolent myeloma is a condition where there are more myeloma cells. Even so, there are still not enough myeloma cells to cause symptoms or damage the body. However, indolent myeloma can get worse over time. There is no need for treatment but again, it is important to have regular exams to make sure that the condition is not getting worse.
- Active myeloma is malignant. In this case there are many more myeloma cells and they are causing single or multiple forms of damage such as kidney problems, bone damage and anemia. Active myeloma causes symptoms and requires treatment.
- Multiple Myeloma has three stages: Stage I, Stage II and Stage III. Whatever stage the patient is in depends on the content of myeloma cells that are in your body and how much damage they have caused. The doctor will consider and measure these factors to help him or her determine the stage that you are in and how aggressive the treatment needs to be.
As with any disease, particularly with cancer, there are factors that raise the risk for multiple myeloma. It’s important to consider factors like age, myeloma is more likely after 65; gender, it’s more common with men than women; and ethnicity, African-Americans are significantly more vulnerable. At this point, it is not clear what causes one to get myeloma; however, research has shown that chemicals used in farming, radiation, hepatitis, HIV and herpes may increase the risk for myeloma.
In some cases there are no recognizable symptoms of early multiple myeloma; however, as the tumor grows, and there’s an increase in protein that is produced, symptoms of the disease become more apparent. Some typical symptoms are: anemia, failure of the bowels to perform, bone pain, kidney damage, bone lesions, bone fracture, confusion, dehydrations, tendency for more infections, and excessive bleeding.
Unfortunately there is no cure for multiple myeloma; however, remissions often take a significant amount of time to come about. What is most important once a diagnosis of myeloma has been made, is to get a good solid handle on the disease and ensure that the patient stays in remission and assist the patient toward a good quality of life for as long as possible. Achieving a good quality of life for the patient is often difficult because the myeloma cells become resistant to chemo therapy.
Additional Cancer Related Information
- Cancer Treatment Home
- An Overview of Cancer
- Prevalent Types of Cancer