Saturday, August 8, 2009

Multiple Myeloma Description from '04- easy to understand-

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: A close relative is in the early stages of multiple myeloma. He has no symptoms and is still quite active. He plays golf and takes long walks. He is 79. He is not under treatment. Please explain what this disease is. Can it be cured? Is research being done on it? - I.J.

ANSWER: Multiple myeloma is a cancer that begins with a single renegade cell in the bone marrow. That cell begins to multiply at extremely fast rates and has a prolonged longevity. The progeny of that single cell crowd out other cells in the bone marrow, and that leads to all the complications of this disease.

Anemia is common, because myeloma cells disrupt red blood cell production. The same happens to white blood cells. Infections are a common consequence because of the drop in white blood cells and because there's a diminished production of antibodies. Myeloma can affect the kidneys.

The cause of this cancer, as is true of so many other cancers, has eluded detection.

Symptoms of myeloma include bone pain, especially back or rib pain. Bones are weakened by the rampant growth of myeloma cells, and they break easily. Another consequence of bone involvement is a rise in blood calcium, and the high levels of calcium can create their own problems.

Anemia symptoms are part of the myeloma picture. Fatigue and breathlessness are two examples.

The cure for myeloma has not yet been discovered, but there are treatments that slow its course, make patients more comfortable and can prolong life. Chemotherapy drugs are the usual treatment.

Your relative has not reached the point that calls for treatment. It's usually begun when people develop symptoms or when there is a rise in a blood protein that is generated by myeloma cells. Research on myeloma is being conducted throughout the world.

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