What Is Myeloma?

A urine test is often used to help diagnose myeloma.
Article Details
  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 22 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Myeloma is a condition in which plasma cells, the cells in bone marrow that produce antibodies, become cancerous. It is sometimes referred to as plasma cell dyscrasia or plasma cell myeloma, and most commonly as multiple myeloma (MM). Multiple myeloma is the most common form found in patients, and it is so named because it involves multiple sites in the body. The cells begin to grow at an uncontrollable rate and develop into tumors at numerous sites. However, a small percentage of patients develop these cells outside the bone marrow, and others have solitary myeloma, meaning the disease affects only a single area.

This condition often presents with bone pain, primarily in the spine and ribs, though other locations are also commonly affected. The pain typically worsens with movement. Other common symptoms include chronic or acute infection, anemia, and kidney failure. However, myeloma is so varied in its formation and development that the symptoms can be equally varied.

Diagnosis of myeloma typically follows a physical examination and recording of health history, combined with blood and urine laboratory tests. Elevated paraprotein and calcium levels are laboratory indicators. If myeloma is suspected, further diagnostics including a skeletal survey or computed tomography (CT) scan, along with a bone marrow biopsy. The method of diagnosis is dependent on the treating physician.

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The prognosis for myeloma is typically not good. Though there is currently no cure, treatment is an option. Treatment revolves around containment of the disease and suppression of both the symptoms and disease progression.

The underlying symptoms, including anemia and renal failure, if present, must be treated first. Steroids and chemotherapy are standard treatment options for myeloma. In some cases, stem cell transplant is a suggested treatment.

Most patients who have been treated for this condition and achieve clinical remission relapse at some point. According to the International Staging System (ISS) for myeloma, the median survival prognosis for stage 1 is 62 months, stage 2 is 49 months, and stage 3 is 29 months.

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Discuss this Article

candyquilt
Post 3

A friend's mom has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma and I've been helping her do some research on the disease. We read a lot of real life stories of myeloma patients and what I understood is that its most important for the myeloma diagnosis to take place at an early stage.

Unfortunately, it seems like it usually takes a long time to diagnose myeloma, since the symptoms can appear to be temporary pains or simple ailments to the patient and the doctor. A blood test and a bone marrow biopsy will confirm that it is myeloma and depending on the stage, medications, chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants can make this illness one that is livable with. But early diagnosis is key here.

turquoise
Post 2

Though there's not really any "good" cancer, I think that myeloma is particularly bad. It's difficult to diagnose, quickly advances in the body and cannot be cured. Chemotherapy which is often used to slow spreading of the tumor is such a difficult treatment for patients, both physically and emotionally. I hope that myeloma research in stem cell transplants continue, because I think that could be a great alternative to chemotherapy until a cure can be found hopefully.

KittenTucker
Post 1

While multiple myeloma is the most common type of myeloma, there are also two other types - light chain myeloma occurs when a person only produces part of the immunoglobin called a light chain - this occurs in 20% of patients with myeloma. Another type of myeloma is called non-secretory myeloma, which occurs in less than 2% of myeloma patients. In this type of myeloma, the immunoglobins don't show up in blood or urine, which makes this type of myeloma harder to diagnose.

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