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What is multiple myeloma?

A rare blood cancer related to lymphoma and leukemia, multiple myeloma affects your white blood cells. Those are your body’s cells that fight infections and produce antibodies that attack unwanted germs.

Multiple myeloma forms in plasma cells where it begins to take over the healthy cells. It creates cancer cells that produce abnormalities which lead to complications.

Knowing the in’s and out’s of what causes multiple myeloma, as well as the treatment options available, will help you to better understand your own diagnosis of the disease.

A patient getting cancer treatment

Multiple myeloma symptoms

Unlike many other forms of cancer, multiple myeloma is asymptomatic. That means when most patients have the disease, they won’t experience any symptoms until it progresses.

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With multiple myeloma, by the time you do begin to experience symptoms, the odds are that the disease has advanced to another, more serious stage of cancer.

Because there are so few identifiers at the beginning when you have mutiple myeloma, it’s even more important to understand what to look for to make it easier to catch earlier.

Some symptoms of multiple myeloma include:

  • Bone pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Infections, often frequent and repetitive
  • Weight loss
  • Constipation
  • Nausea

While you it is possible to experience some of these symptoms for other reasons, it’s important to realize that these signs are also often associated with multiple myeloma, and you should contact your health care provider for further examination if you notice them.

Diagnosing multiple myeloma

To make a multiple myeloma diagnosis, your provider will order a series of tests and procedures. Some of the testing includes:

  • Blood tests: A blood test can spot abnormal proteins produced my cancer cells. Not only can a blood test reveal the proteins, but a blood test will allow your provider to see the advancement and aggressiveness of your myeloma.
  • Urine tests: A urine test is another way to detect proteins released by cancer cells.
  • Biopsies and examinations: Your doctor may want to take a sample of your bone marrow for laboratory testing. After studying your bone marrow sample, your doctor will be able to see any abnormalities caused by cancer cells (and at what rate it is progressing).

Treatment options for multiple myeloma

Once multiple myeloma’s presence is confirmed, the next step is to talk with your doctor about available treatment options.

Your provider will customize your treatment plan based on the stage your cancer has reached and how fast it is progressing.

Some of the common multiple myeloma treatment options include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Interventional Radiology
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Targeted Therapy
  • Corticosteroids

Multiple myeloma treatment side effects

Different treatments can have varying side effects, but—in almost all cases—you can expect to experience some side effects from multiple myeloma treatment.

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Some typical side effects include nausea and vomiting, hair loss, and extreme fatigue. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy often also cause skin irritation and related reactions.

Increased risk of excessive bleeding

When undergoing high-dose chemotherapy to kill cancerous cells in your bone marrow, your risk for excessive bleeding is higher due to the low blood count as a result of this type of treatment. It’s important to understand the risks of bleeding and avoid any harmful substances.

Increased risk for infection

With any type of cancer treatment, your risk of infection is high. Your body will be trying to process medications and treatments, and this causes your white blood cells and antibodies to be lowered.

As such, you will be very susceptible to getting infections. Common colds can take a serious toll on your body while going through treatments. Discuss with your doctor the best ways to avoid or lower the chance of infection.

Effects on your well-being

Another common side effect that isn’t always talked about is related to mental health. Many cancer patients going through treatments have a hard time with the hair loss and physical changes.

It’s easy for your cancer treatments to interfere with how you feel about yourself.

Have a support group, or people you can really rely on when going through treatment. Whenever you can, try to rely on close friends or family for help when you’re experiencing any of the common mental health side effects of treatment.

Close-to-home cancer care

Finding out you have cancer is hard, but finding a place to treat your cancer shouldn’t be.

At Logansport Memorial Hospital, we offer the highest level of quality cancer care right here in Cass County. Our state-of-the-art equipment can provide you with the big city technology, without having to leave home for care.

“Each patient’s cancer is a little bit different, and each patient needs an individualized plan. We can focus with our technology on treating that cancer effectively while minimizing damage to normal structures.”
Dr. John Marvel, Oncology Radiologist

We provide comprehensive, community-based surgical oncology services, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy services to patients in a compassionate and caring environment.

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TOPICS: Cancer care