Multiple myeloma is a common form of cancer that begins within white blood cells known as plasma cells. The purpose of plasma cells is to create antibodies that protect the immune system against germs and harmful products. Curing localized multiple myeloma is possible, particularly in younger people. But when multiple myeloma has spread to other parts of the body, the patient's life expectancy is generally from three to five years.
Common symptoms of multiple myeloma include broken bones, typically of the spine, bone pain in the ribs and back, weakness, fatigue, excessive thirst, fevers and infections that occur frequently, nausea, frequent urination, constipation and weight loss. Your doctor can determine whether these symptoms are the result of multiple myeloma or another cause. If you have these symptoms, you should speak with your doctor as soon as possible for early detection and treatment.
"No one knows the exact causes of multiple myeloma," says the National Cancer Institute. What is known is that there are certain risk factors that increase your chance of developing multiple myeloma. These risks include age (over 65 and rare in those under 35), race (highest in African-Americans and lowest in Asians), being a male, family history and a history of MGUS (monoclonal gammothapy of undetermined significance), which is "a benign condition in which abnormal plasma cells make M proteins."
Multiple myeloma and the symptoms associated with it can be treated using drugs chemotherapy, targeted therapy and steroids. "Chemotherapy kills fast-growing myeloma cells, but the drug can also harm normal cells that divide rapidly" the National Cancer Institute states. Targeted therapy is used to block myeloma cell growth. Steroids can aid in the death of myeloma cells.
Multiple myeloma and the treatments used against it often produce side effects that may lead to other illnesses. These include infections, anemia, kidney problems, bone thinning, pain and amyloidosis (abnormal proteins building up in the body's tissues). It is up to you to decide whether you want to live with myeloma untreated to avoid these side effects, or if the benefits of treatment outweigh them.
Maintain a healthy balanced diet to keep your energy and weight up. Doing so can lessen the symptoms of multiple myeloma. If you stay active and energized, it can help reduce excessive fatigue and bone pain. Eating right strengthens your bones, which can prevent them from breaking. Have your doctor recommend a nutritional adviser, who can help you determine what you need to add to your diet so you're eating right and getting all of the supplements you need.
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