What Are the First Signs of Multiple Myeloma?
Multiple myeloma is a rare type of cancer, affecting less than 1% of people. Luckily, there are medications and treatment options for those who receive a diagnosis. In this article we'll look at symptoms, treatment options, and more.
What Is Multiple Myeloma?
Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer involving plasma cells in the body. Plasma cells are a part of the immune system crucial for protecting the body from infections and diseases by producing antibodies.
Diseases called neoplasms force the body to produce more plasma cells than it needs. These abnormal cells can damage organs and thicken the blood.
As the condition continues to progress, tumors can form in the bones or soft tissue. If there is only one tumor, the condition is called plasmacytoma. When there are two or more tumors, the condition is called multiple myeloma.
Once established in the body, it can take experts a long time to notice and properly diagnose the condition. This delay is usually due to a slow progression of symptoms or a complete lack of symptoms until the condition is far advanced.
Multiple Myeloma Symptoms
Multiple myeloma may be present for some time before symptoms emerge. When they do, you can expect to encounter issues like:
- Bone pain, commonly in the ribs and back
- Frequent infections and fever
- Anemia – a lack of red body cells
- Bruising easily
- Feeling numb or tingling sensations
You may not even notice some of the negative effects of multiple myeloma. With time, the condition can:
- Weaken the bones surrounding the tumor, leading to a break
- Increase the levels of calcium in the blood
- Damage organs throughout the body, especially the kidneys
Of course, the specific symptoms and their intensity will depend on various individual differences. If you notice, any or all of the symptoms above, be sure to consult with a medical professional as quickly as possible.
Multiple Myeloma Statistics
Part of the reason why multiple myeloma does not receive the level of national attention as other cancer varieties is the low number of people the condition affects each year.
- About 30,000 new cases of multiple myeloma were diagnosed in 2017. Compare this to breast cancer with more than 250,000 new cases and lung/ bronchus cancer with more than 220,000 new cases
- There were about 12,500 deaths related to multiple myeloma is 2017
- As of 2014, almost 120,000 people in the U.S. living with multiple myeloma
- A person has less than a one percent chance of ever getting the condition
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Who Is at Risk for Multiple Myeloma?
You can never predict who will get this form of cancer or when symptoms will present, but there are some key risk factors for the condition. The significant factor is having a history of another plasma cell disease called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS).
Otherwise, being male and being African American increase your risk of having the condition. Age also plays a factor in the condition with the risk increasing each decade from 55 to 85 with about one-third of the people with multiple myeloma getting the cancer between ages 75 and 84.
Treatment of Multiple Myeloma
Rather than following only one course of treatment, there are many options for multiple myeloma. Depending on the stage of the cancer, the symptoms, and the health of the individual, treatments may include:
- Other drug therapy like certain corticosteroids
- Targeted therapy to attack cancer cells
- High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant
- Biologic therapy using the body’s immune system to fight tumors
- Radiation therapy
- Surgery to remove the tumor
Be sure to discuss all treatment options with your treatment team as well as your family and friends. Each option offers strengths and weakness, so there may be several options available to you.
Multiple Myeloma and Mental Health
All cancers have the ability to influence the body negatively, but their impact on the mind can be equally devastating. The doctors will care for your body, so it may be up to you to care for your mind.
To maintain your mental health during cancer treatment, consider:
Expressing Your Feelings
A cancer diagnosis will produce a wide range of potent feelings. Do your best to list, discuss, and express your feelings. Keeping them bottled up comes back to affect you later.
Focusing on Fun
Cancer and fun do not usually go hand-in-hand, and that is why you will benefit from paying more attention to fun. By having positive experiences with people you love, cancer will slide into the background, at least momentarily.
Accepting your State
You have cancer. It is an awful thing to admit to yourself, but it is true. Acceptance allows you to be patient and kind towards yourself, which makes life much easier.
Multiple myeloma is in your life, but it does not have to become your life. Learn about the condition and treatments to minimize the effects and maximize your happiness