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Multiple Myeloma

What Is Multiple Myeloma?

Our B cells are a type of immune system cell responsible for defending the body against infection. When an invading substance or microorganism is detected by a B cell, the B cell can differentiate into plasma cells. Plasma cells normally reside in the bone marrow and produce antibodies specifically designed to combat the invader. Multiple myeloma occurs when these plasma cells become cancerous and multiply uncontrollably. These dividing plasma cells may form what’s known as a “plasmacytoma.” Plasmacytomas usually develop in bone tissue but may, in some rare cases, occur in other areas of the body. When someone only has one plasmacytoma, it’s known as a “solitary plasmacytoma” whereas if they have more than one, they have what’s known as “multiple myeloma.”

What Causes Multiple Myeloma?

Multiple myeloma occurs when plasma cells of the immune system become cancerous, multiply uncontrollably, and form at least two plasmacytomas (discussed above) in the body. Physicians and scientists are still trying to determine what causes multiple myeloma to develop. In the majority of cases, however, multiple myeloma occurs in people with no clearly-identifiable risk factors, such as aging and personal history of a plasma cell neoplasm.

How Is Multiple Myeloma Detected?

Our specialists collect information regarding medical history, surgical history, social history, and family history; conduct laboratory testing; and review radiological studies to approach patient care in the most comprehensive and personalized manner.

The blood test normally used to assess for blood disorders is known as the “Complete Blood Count.” This test will allow your doctor to determine if you have an abnormal amount of any one or any combination of blood cell types. To investigate a suspicious finding further, your doctor may choose to order a flow cytometry or bone marrow biopsy. A flow cytometry is a cell counting technique used to gather more information about cells in the blood. A bone marrow biopsy is a tissue sampling technique used to determine the composition of the bone marrow and whether or not it is involved by an abnormality, such as a myeloproliferative neoplasm.

In order to determine which parts of the body are involved by either a plasmacytoma or multiple myeloma, a doctor will likely order an imaging study. Imaging studies might include a CT scan, PET scan, PET-CT scan, or X-ray. A CT (computed tomography) scan uses X-rays to generate a three-dimensional picture of the body whereas a PET (positron emission tomography) scan uses a small amount of radioactive tracer to locate any cancer cells by how readily they take up the radiotracer. A PET-CT combines the features of CT scan with those of a PET scan.

Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma

The following may be indicative of multiple myeloma but may also be indicative of other illnesses:

  • Back pain
  • Bone fracture
  • Bone pain
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent infection
  • Frequent urination
  • Impaired kidney function
  • Increased thirst
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • It is important you tell your doctor if you have any of these signs and symptoms, so he or she may determine their cause and plan treatment, if necessary.

    How Is Multiple Myeloma Treated?

    Treatment of multiple myeloma, depending on the extent of disease involvement, may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, and/or other therapeutic approaches. These treatments may be used individually or in combination based on your doctor’s recommendations. It’s important to discuss all of your treatment options with your doctor to help make the decision that best fits your needs. Some important factors to consider when deciding on a treatment plan include

  • Your age, health, and lifestyle.
  • The extent of your multiple myeloma.
  • Any other serious health conditions you have.
  • Your feelings about the need to treat the multiple myeloma right away.
  • Your doctor’s opinion about if you need to treat the multiple myeloma right away.
  • The likelihood that treatment will help fight your multiple myeloma.
  • Possible side effects from each treatment method.
  • You may feel the need to make a quick decision, but it is very important to ask questions if there is anything about which you’re not entirely sure. It is very important for you and your doctor to communicate and work together to weigh the benefits of each treatment option against the possible adverse effects in order to ultimately determine which treatment option is best for you.

    NYCBS Clinical Trials in Multiple Myeloma

    Clinical trials are carefully controlled research studies that are done to get a closer look at promising new treatments or procedures. Clinical trials are one way to get state-of-the art treatment methods. Sometimes they may be the only way to get access to newer treatments. They are also the best way for doctors to learn how to better treat disease. If you would like to learn more about clinical trials that might be right for you, contact New York Cancer and Blood Specialist today at (855) 528-7322 to learn more.

    The New York Cancer and Blood Specialists are a network of community treatment centers which provides programs and services, support groups, wellness care, and more to help patients. NYCBS has the experts to assist you.

    If you need assistance, have questions, or would like to set up an appointment or consultation in regards to your diagnose or symptoms, please contact New York Cancer & Blood Specialists at (855) 528-7322 for more information and to speak with one of our trained specialists.