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Multiple Myeloma

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Multiple myeloma is a cancer that begins in the plasma cells of the body. A plasma cell is a white blood cell, found in bone marrow, that generates antibodies and helps fight infections. While researchers do not know the cause of multiple myeloma and are still learning how plasma cells become cancerous, multiple myeloma remains the most common plasma cell cancer. When myeloma develops within the bone marrow, the cells can create tumors called plasmacytoma. More diffuse disease is called multiple myeloma.

Statistics

  • In the United States, one in 159 people will be diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
  • In 2012, there will be approximately 21,700 new cases of multiple myeloma.
  • Of the 21,700 new cases, there are 10,710 expected deaths from the disease this year.
  • In Texas, it is expected that 1,473 people will be diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and 759 people will die from the disease in 2012.

Risk Factors

Doctors do not know how to prevent multiple myeloma. According to the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society, there are several circumstances that may increase risk:

  • Age: Multiple myeloma is more likely to be diagnosed in people over 65.
  • Gender: More men than women are diagnosed with the disease. This year, 2,680 more men than women will be diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
  • Race: African-Americans are two times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than Caucasians.
  • Family History: People with immediate family members who have had multiple myeloma are at a greater risk of developing the disease.
  • Other Conditions: Having monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), a condition in which plasma cells make small amounts of a single type of gamma globulin, increases risk of developing myeloma. Those diagnosed with other plasma cell diseases will often later develop multiple myeloma. Some studies suggest that exposure to radiation or working in an oil-related industry can raise the risk for multiple myeloma.

Symptoms

Patients in the early stages of multiple myeloma do not always show symptoms. However, there are several symptoms, which include:

  • Bone pain and broken bones
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Persistent thirst
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Frequent urination
  • Fevers
  • Frequent infections

Treatment:

Treatment options for multiple myeloma vary depending upon the type of myeloma, severity and stage of the disease. Anyone with multiple myeloma should consult a medical oncologist or hematologist about treatment. Options can include surgery, chemotherapy and other drug therapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, plasmapheresis, and stem cell transplants.

Sources: American Cancer Society, International Myeloma Foundation, National Cancer Institute, and Texas Cancer Registry