Symptoms and Treatments of Multiple Myeloma

What is Multiple Myeloma? Multiple Myeloma is a cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell.  Plasma cells are the cells that help fight infection by the production of antibodies that attack germs.

Multiple myeloma usually develops from a benign condition called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS).

In Multiple Myeloma the cancer cells accumulate in bone marrow, crowding out the healthy cells.  Instead of producing antibodies, the cancer cells produce protein that can in turn effect the function of the kidneys.

What are the symptoms of Multiple Myeloma?

Symptoms of multiple myeloma are often not noticeable early in the disease and symptoms can be vague or very generalised.  Any of the following symptoms could indicate multiple myeloma particularly if they are ongoing.

  • Bone pain, especially in your spine or chest
  • Digestive issues such as nausea, loss of appetite or constipation
  • Anaemia
  • Mental fogginess or confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent infections
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness or numbness in your legs
  • Excessive thirst
  • Kidney failure.

Treatments for Multiple Myeloma

If there are little or no symptoms, known as smoldering myeloma, very often treatment will be deferred.  There is however careful monitoring carried out in the form of regular blood and urine tests.

If, however, symptoms develop or the disease begins to progress there are a number of treatment options that will be considered.  An initial treatment plan will often be in cycles of weeks or months.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy uses drugs taken either orally or intravenously to attack specific cancer cells.  Drugs such as Bortezomib, Carfilzomib and ixazomib citrate can break down the proteins in the myeloma cells and cause the cells to die.

Biological therapy

Biological therapy uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer by administering drugs taken orally such as thalidomide, lenalidomide or pomalidomide which enhance the immune system to attack the cancer cells.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy can be given orally or intravenously and is designed to kill cancer cells including those of multiple myeloma.  It can be given prior to a bone marrow transplant.

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are used to control inflammation in the body.  Drugs such as prednisone and dexamethasone can be used in the fight against myeloma cells.

Bone Marrow Transplant

A bone marrow transplant or a stem cell transplant replaces the unhealthy bone marrow with healthy bone marrow from a donor.

Unfortunately, as multiple myeloma is incurable the disease can often relapse.  Where myeloma has relapsed there will be a treatment plan, different from the initial one, created to deal with the new onset.

Alternative treatments for Multiple Myeloma

While alternative treatments will not no cure multiple myeloma therapies such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage, meditation and relaxation techniques can help to deal with any symptoms and side effects of treatment.