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Multiple Myeloma

A type of cancer that begins in plasma cells, multiple myeloma may also be called Kahler disease, myelomatosis, and plasma cell myeloma. Plasma cells are white blood cells that make antibodies. Antibodies are part of the immune system that works with other parts of the immune system to help protect the body from germs and other harmful substances.

Like other cancers, myeloma begins when a plasma cell becomes abnormal. Over time myeloma cells collect in the bone marrow. They may damage the solid part of the bone. When myeloma cells collect in several of your bones, the disease is called multiple myeloma. Myeloma cells make antibodies called M proteins and others proteins that can collect in the blood, urine, and organs.

No one knows the exact cause of multiple myeloma, but research has shown that certain risk factors increase the chance of developing the disease. Some of these are age 65 and over, race, being a man, personal history of monoclonal gammopathy of undertermined significance, and family history of multiple myeloma. Symptoms associated with multiple myeloma include bone pain, usually in the back and ribs, broken bones, usually in the spine, feeling weak and very tired, feeling very thirsty, frequent infections and fevers, weight loss, nausea or constipation, and frequent urination.

Multiple myeloma can sometimes be found after a routine blood test, but it is suspected more often after an x-ray for a broken bone. To help evaluate for multiple myeloma your doctor may ask you about your personal and family medical history and do a physical exam. Additional tests may include blood tests, urine tests, x-rays, and a biopsy to evaluate to see if there are myeloma cells in your bone marrow. After the biopsy tissue from the biopsy is sent to a pathologist to review under a microscope to determine if the diagnosis is multiple myeloma. If diagnosis is confirmed that you may need additional blood tests, CT scan, and MRI to determine the extent or stage of the disease and best treatment plan.

With multiple myeloma there are many treatment options. These include watchful waiting, chemotherapy, and stem cell transplant. If bone disease is involved radiation therapy is also sometimes involved. The choice of treatment depends on how advanced the disease is and symptoms that accompany it. A treatment plan that is best for you will be decided upon by you and your healthcare team.

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