The incidence of Multiple Myeloma, a type of blood cancer developed when the cancerous plasma cells in the blood grow uncontrolled, is increasing in India, in almost all cities. Characterised by varying symptoms such as low blood count, chronic fatigue, susceptible to infections due to low immunity, etc. Multiple Myeloma must be treated at its early onset.
What is multiple myeloma?
Multiple myeloma, which is commonly called Kahler’s disease, is a type of blood cancer characterized by abnormal production and functioning of the plasma cells found in the bone marrow. Plasma cells, a type of white blood cell, are created and generally reside in the bone marrow. Excess plasma cells can eventually combine to create a tumour or tumours in many parts of the body, most notably the bone marrow. When only one tumour is present, it is referred to as a solitary plasmacytoma. When the bone marrow has greater than 10% plasma cells, the term multiple myeloma is used.
Plasma cells are an important component of the immune system because they secrete immunoglobulin proteins (M-proteins), which is a type of antibody. Antibodies are proteins that the body creates to fight invading microbes, toxins, and other foreign substances. Overproduction of plasma cells of Single Lineage in affected individuals results in abnormally high amounts of these proteins throughout the body but lead to suboptimal immune response.
Signs and symptoms
The specific symptoms of multiple myeloma vary from patient to patient. Early in the disease, there may be no symptoms at all. In case symptoms develop, they may include:
● Bone pain, usually in the lower back, spine, and chest
● An elevated level of calcium in the blood
● Loss of appetite
● Frequent infections
● Numbness in the legs and weakness
● Weight loss
The exact cause of multiple myeloma is unknown. Scientists suspect a range of causes, including environmental variables, that is, the effects of radiation exposure, genetic anomalies, or other factors that may play varied contributory roles. Dioxin exposure has been linked to an increased risk of myeloma.
You are at a higher risk of suffering from this type of cancer if you are:
● Over 65 years of age
● Have a family history of multiple myeloma
● Exposed to radiation, pesticides, and other chemicals
Patients with Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance (MGUS), a pre-cancerous disorder characterised by an increase of plasma cells in the body are at a risk of developing multiple myeloma. It is important to closely monitor such patients since they do not have symptoms normally.
A thorough clinical evaluation, a full patient history, and a variety of tests are used to diagnose multiple myeloma. These include-
● Removal and microscopic examination of small samples of bone marrow (biopsy or aspiration)
● Blood tests to detect low levels of red and white blood cells
● Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
● Computed tomography (CT)
● Positron emission tomography (PET) scanning may reveal characteristic changes in bones
● Electrophoresis, a test that uses electric currents to sort proteins in the blood or urine, may be used to detect increased levels of M-proteins
If you aren't experiencing any symptoms also known as smouldering multiple myeloma, you may not require immediate treatment. For slow-growing and early-stage multiple myeloma, immediate therapy may not be required. With treatment, the progression of the disorder can be largely reduced alongside the discomfort, complications and overall health condition can be stabilized. The standard treatment options include - Targeted therapy, Immunotherapy, Chemotherapy, Corticosteroids, Bone marrow transplant and Radiation therapy.
It is difficult to prevent multiple myeloma since it is caused by genetic alterations that occur naturally in the body or are induced by environmental contaminants. In general, a healthy lifestyle is advised. It is important to consult a blood disorder specialist if there are similar symptoms.