Multiple Myeloma Overview
WellStar Health System provides superior care for multiple myeloma, offering a comprehensive spectrum of top-notch physicians, treatment options and diagnostic tools. In addition WellStar offers such innovative advances in the fight against multiple myeloma, including:
- Advanced hematologists and oncologists with special interest in blood-related cancers such as multiple myeloma and who practice state-of-the-art care in a collegial atmosphere.
- The entire spectrum of diagnostic and interventional treatments – including ultrasounds and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), a treatment that allows for the radiation to be tailored to the size and placement of the tumor, while sparing healthy tissue.
- A Tumor Board, which weekly meetings of a multidisciplinary team, for review of complex cases
- Clinical trials - making novel therapies available to patients.
Plasma cells are white blood cells that can produce antibodies. Like all blood cells, they are produced in the bone marrow. When an infection is detected, B cells are customized into plasma cells to fight the particular infection; each plasma cell is capable of secreting hundreds or thousands of proteins called antibodies per second; these antibodies attack and kill germs. Plasma cells are a critical part of the immune system.
In multiple myeloma, some plasma cells reproduce uncontrollably, crowding out healthy red or white blood cells or platelets. This can cause problems like:
- Anemia - the inability to carry oxygen in the blood - caused by a shortage or red blood cells.
- Bruising or bleeding, caused by not having enough platelets.
- Leukopenia - too few white blood cells, crippling the ability to fight infection.
The malignant plasma cells produce antibodies, but they are not useful for fighting infection.
Malignant plasma cells can gather in clumps, causing isolated tumors (plasmacytomas), usually in bone. If there is only one such tumor, it is called an isolated plasmacytoma; in the much more common case when there are more than one, it is called multiple myeloma.
The malignant plasma cells also produce osteoclast activating factors which cause the bones to lose calcium to the blood, which can result in dangerously high levels of calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia), and holes in bones (osteolytic lesions). Some patients suffer vertebral collapse or spontaneous fracture.
The cancerous plasma cells also produce excessive monoclonal immunoglobulin, referred to as an M-protein. This protein can overload the kidneys, leading to abnormal kidney function and even kidney failure.
Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma include:
- Bone pain, particularly in the back, pelvis, ribs, and skull
- Fractures, typically in the spine
- Extreme thirst and urination
- Frequent infections and fevers
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Nausea or constipation
- Frequent urination
- Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs
- Being older than 65
- Being African American – black Americans have almost twice the risk of white Americans.
- Being male – men are at slightly elevated risk
- Having a history of a benign condition known as monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS). In this condition, abnormal plasma cells make the same M protein that myeloma cells make, but the condition has not become cancerous. Individuals with a history of MGUS should get regular lab tests to make sure that their levels of M protein are not rising.
- Family history of myeloma
- Exposure to radiation may cause a very few cases.
- Workplace exposure in certain oil-related industries
- Being overweight
- A history of other plasma call diseases