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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lauren O'Byrne

Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a serious health condition that may present itself with a variety of generalized and non-specific symptoms. It’s important to have a relationship built on trust with your physician and always talk with them about symptoms or concerns you may have.

Multiple myeloma is one of such conditions, which is a cancer of one specific type of white blood cell called plasma cells. White blood cells fight infections in the body. They are made in the center of your bones, in a part called the bone marrow. When people have multiple myeloma, the bone marrow makes too many abnormal plasma cells and not enough of the normal blood cells a person’s body needs.

This can cause symptoms such as:

  • Bone pain or bones that break easily

  • Nausea, vomiting, confusion, or feeling more thirsty than usual

  • Feeling more weak, tired or short of breath than usual

  • Blurry vision

  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the chest, lower back or legs

  • Getting sick more easily

  • Losing weight without trying to

All of these symptoms can also be caused by conditions that are not multiple myeloma. But if you have these symptoms, you should let your doctor know.

Typically, your doctor will do a physical exam and tests such as:

  • Blood or urine tests

  • Imaging tests, such as CT scans, PET scans, MRI scans, or X-rays

  • Bone marrow biopsy – a very small sample of the bone marrow which is tested for abnormal cells

Multiple myeloma is usually treated with one or more of the following treatments:

  • “Watch and wait” – Some people have a mild condition which does not need to be treated right away but they still need to be checked by a doctor regularly. When they start to have symptoms, they will have active treatment.

  • Chemotherapy – medicines that kill cancer cells

  • Steroid medicines –medicines that can kill cancer cells and slow cancer growth

  • Medicines called “immune modulating medicines” – medicines that stop the cancer from growing

  • Antibodies – Antibodies are proteins in your blood that help your body fight infections. When used as a treatment, they are a different type of antibody that are created in a lab and used as medicine. They kill cancer cells by targeting specific parts of the cells.

  • Bone marrow transplant – During a bone marrow transplant, patients receive healthy bone marrow from a donor.

People with multiple myeloma also get treatment for any symptoms they have such as pain.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking with your doctor or feel that you aren’t receiving the undivided attention you need during office visits, you may be risking your health by letting serious problems go too long without being looked at.

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