How does the doctor diagnose multiple myeloma?

What is myeloma? 

This is a type of cancer in which abnormal plasma cells destroy normal bone tissue, causing the bones to become extremely fragile. It is often referred to as multiple myeloma, and in Europe is known as Kahler's disease.

What is Burkitt's lymphoma?

Burkitt's lymphoma, one of the fastest growing human cancers, can be cured with chemotherapy alone. Although rare in the United States, it is a common childhood cancer in tropical Africa. In African children, Burkitt's lymphoma most often starts in the jaw, ovaries, and kidneys. However, in Americans, the lymph nodes of the neck and digestive system are the most common tumor sites. Because Burkitt's lymphoma is a fast growing cancer, patients may need surgery or radiation to help reduce the size of the tumor.

Who usually gets multiple myeloma? 

Multiple myeloma is most often seen in adults between the ages of 50 and 70. Statistics show that more men than women have multiple myeloma, and it is more common among black men.

What is Multiple Myeloma?

What are the symptoms of multiple myeloma? 

The main symptom is bone pain, which seems to worsen at night. Back pain is often present. Bone fractures may occur. Abnormal bleeding, difficulty in urination, anemia, a tired feeling, painful swelling on the ribs, and susceptibility to infections are all possible symptoms.

How is multiple myeloma diagnosed?

X-rays may show destroyed patches of bone. Blood and urine tests can detect certain abnormal proteins which suggest the presence of the disease. (The term Bence-Jones protein is used in connection with multiple myeloma to identify a specific protein excretion which is used in diagnosing the condition.) A small needle aspiration of bone marrow, made under local anesthesia, is needed to make a final diagnosis.

Are most myeloma patients anemic? 

Since the bone marrow is producing fewer oxygen carrying red blood cells and disease fighting white blood cells, myeloma patients are often anemic and susceptible to infections such as pneumonia. As the plasma cells act against the bone tissue, calcium is released sometimes in amounts exceeding the kidney's capacity to dispose of it. The patient may become weak, nauseated, and disoriented.

Is exercise important to the myeloma patient? 

Yes. Since immobilization can aggravate the imbalance of calcium, exercise and adequate fluid intake are important. Every effort is made to provide pain relief through radiation and chemotherapy so that the patient will be able to move around.

What treatments are prescribed for multiple myeloma? 

Treatment depends upon the extent of the disease. Combination chemotherapy has been found to be effective in treating multiple myeloma. Radiation therapy may be used on specific parts of the back and neck to relieve pain and help repair bone damage. The tumor cells usually decrease in number at a rapid rate during the first few months of treatment, and the patient may go into remission. When a complete remission occurs, there is a complete return to a state of normal good health: The symptoms disappear, the physical findings become normal, and abnormal cells are no longer found in the bone marrow and blood. Sometimes the remission is only partial, and one or more signs of myeloma may not disappear completely. Examination of the blood, urine, and bone marrow at regular intervals allows the doctor to follow the course of the disease and to select the proper treatment. Back braces and pain relieving medications may also be used to keep patients active.

Living with multiple myeloma

Is Sjogren's syndrome a form of cancer? 

Sjogren's syndrome is a combination of symptoms associated with inflammation of the cornea and conjunctiva of the eye, enlargement of the parotid glands in the neck, and dryness of the mouth due to lack of normal secretions. The syndrome itself is not a form of cancer, but in some cases lymphoma later develops, and it is believed that there may be an association between the two diseases.

What is polycythemia vera? 

Polycythemia vera is an illness in which all types of blood cells, especially red cells, are produced at a faster thannormal rate. It is not cancer, although in its more advanced stage, some patients develop acute leukemia. Treatment may include removing excess blood cells, and sometimes chemotherapy or radiation therapy.


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