Multiple Myeloma is Cancer in the Bones
Multiple myeloma: When the bones make abnormal cells
Multiple myeloma causes your bones to make abnormal cells in the part called the “bone marrow.” The abnormal multiple myeloma cells crowd out healthy blood cells. They can form tumors or lesions in the bone and also make a protein that causes damage to the body. Kidney problems are one common result of this damage.
Are you at risk for multiple myeloma?
Scientists don’t yet know the cause of multiple myeloma, and most people who get it don’t fit a specific profile. Doctors have found a few risk factors, including:
- Age – Most people who get this type of cancer are over 65 years old.
- Obesity – Being overweight or obese increases the disease risk.
- Race – African-Americans are more likely to get multiple myeloma.
- Radiation – Exposure to radioactive materials can increase the risk.
- Family history – Multiple myeloma seems to run in some families.
Multiple myeloma can go unnoticed
Multiple myeloma is not preventable and it may not be found until it’s at a late stage. In many cases, it has no symptoms for a long time. In other cases, the symptoms can look like they’re caused by another condition. Sometimes a blood test can show that there’s a problem, but doctors might think it has a different cause.
Signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma
Many multiple myeloma patients don’t have any symptoms at all. Others only have symptoms when the disease is advanced. Multiple myeloma symptoms can include:
- Bone pain and weakness, or easily broken bones
- Serious bleeding from minor injuries
- Kidney problems
- Excessive thirst and urination
- Back pain or numbness and weakness, most often in the legs
- Tests showing too few red or white blood cells
Multiple myeloma: Two types of staging
RCCA uses a newer, international system to see how far multiple myeloma has progressed. This system is based on two different blood tests. There is also a traditional system that’s based on abnormalities found in the blood and the amount of damage seen on x-rays. This system is based on four separate measurements. Whichever system is used, the important thing is getting the right treatment.
Multiple myeloma is treatable
- It may not always have symptoms and can be hard to diagnose, but multiple myeloma can be treated. Several types of drugs can now treat the disease, and these drugs are often used in combination. These drugs include:
- Proteasome inhibitors
- Monoclonal antibodies
Can multiple myeloma be cured?
Patients with multiple myeloma can sometimes take breaks from treatment, but the disease doesn’t usually go away. That means patients need to stay in close touch with their RCCA doctors and get treatment when needed. So, while the treatment doesn’t end, life with multiple myeloma can be managed.
Coping with multiple myeloma
Living with cancer as a chronic disease can cause a lot of emotions. You may get depressed, angry or frustrated. It’s important to take care of yourself and have plenty of outside support. Here are some things you can do:
- Improve your nutrition – Eating right can be hard even when you’re feeling well, and it can get harder with cancer. It’s important to focus on eating healthy foods, and a nutritionist can help.
- Get a lot of rest – Cancer will make you tired, and the treatments can make that worse. Take your time, and get as much rest as you can.
- Exercise when you’re able – Studies have shown that a sensible exercise program can help both your body and your mind.
- Give up smoking and drinking alcohol – Do your best to live a healthy lifestyle when your body is sick.
- Get outside support – It’s hard to deal with multiple myeloma by yourself. Your healthcare team and your family and friends can make a big difference.
Regional Cancer Care Associates — A “whole life” approach to cancer care
At Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA), we take a comprehensive, “whole-life” approach, treating you as a whole person — not just your disease. We treat your cancer in an individualized and medically advanced manner. At RCCA, you’ll be diagnosed, treated and cared for by nationally-recognized experts who are close to your home.