Multiple Myeloma is a cancer that develops in the plasma cells (a type of white blood cells) of the blood. The cancer, which is also known as Kahler’s disease, doesn’t have any known cure. However, the symptoms can be treated and managed.
The plasma cells major role is to fight infections and other diseases in the body through the antibodies they produce. When one has Multiple Myeloma these plasma cells over multiply and grow out of control and end up allowing immunoglobins (abnormal protein) into the blood and bones, which eventually damage organs like the kidney.
Types of Multiple Myeloma
The main types of Multiple Myeloma include:
Indolent myeloma: This type of Multiple Myeloma does not have any obvious symptoms and tends to progress very slowly without posing any risk of causing bone tumors.
Solitary plasmacytoma: This type can cause bone tumors. However, it has a positive prognosis because it responds well to the treatment of symptoms.
Causes and Risk Factors of Multiple Myeloma
Currently, there is no known cause of multiple myeloma, but there are risk factors that can trigger the disease. These include:
- Exposure to high levels of radiation
- Immune disorders
- Family history of leukemia
- Certain viruses
- Toxic chemicals
Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma
In the early stages of Multiple Myeloma, the symptoms may be barely noticeable except increased levels of proteins in the blood. However, as the disease progresses, the noticeable common symptoms may include:
- Persistent infections
- Nausea and vomiting
- Vision impairment
- Excessive thirst
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Persistent fatigue
- Numbing or weakness in the legs
- Pain in the bones
Diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma
In most instances, other than having the symptoms mentioned above, Multiple Myeloma may be suspected if you’ve had a blood test that shows hypercalcemia (excess calcium in blood), anemia and the presence of kidney issues. To get a definitive diagnosis, the expert will order several tests, which include:
- Blood chemistry test: This tests for the level of blood calcium, creatinine, albumin and electrolytes
- Blood cell count: This checks the levels of the red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets
- Urine test: To check for the levels of Myeloma proteins
- Imaging tests: To check if there is any damage to the bones as a result of multiple myeloma
- Bone marrow biopsy: This is the removal of a sample of the bone marrow for closer observation in the laboratory
Treatment of Multiple Myeloma
The treatment of Multiple Myeloma is dependent on several factors including:
- The type of the Multiple Myeloma
- The stage of the disease
- The rate at which it is progressing
- The overall health and wellbeing of the patient
- If the disease has spread to other areas
Treatment options for Multiple Myeloma include:
Chemotherapy: This form of treatment of Multiple Myeloma involves the use of a combination of anti-cancer drugs to destroy the leukemia cells.
Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy uses powerful X-ray or strong beams of energy to destroy the Multiple Myeloma cells, and to stop them from growing. This for of treatment is mostly used to target one particular area of the body like the bone where a tumor has developed as result of the Multiple Myeloma.
Targeted Therapy: This is a form of treatment that targets and slows down or stops the growth of the cancerous cells.
Bone Marrow Transplant: Also known as stem cell transplant, a bone marrow transplant replaces the abnormal bone marrow cells with healthy ones to regenerate healthy non-cancerous blood cells. This mode of treatment is mostly done after treatment of the Multiple Myeloma through chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids are drugs used to aid other forms of treatment, like helping in dealing with the side effects of chemotherapy.
However, if the patient is not experiencing any symptoms, the doctor may not recommend any form of treatment, but he/she may suggest close monitoring through regular blood tests to check the progress of the disease.
At King’s College Hospital Dubai, we focus on offering an exemplary service. From initial consultation through to final diagnosis, treatment and beyond. Our multidisciplinary team of expert doctors and nurses, and technologists led by Dr Hassan Ghazal – an American triple board-certified Consultant Medical Oncologist and a Consultant Clinical Hematologist with more than 3 decades of clinical experience, are here to offer tailored management and treatment of your condition, and to answer any questions that you may have throughout your time with us. Whatever you need us for, we’re only a phone-call away.
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