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Multiple Myeloma: Symptoms and Different Stages

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In human body, a type of white blood cell called plasma cell help immune system fight disease by producing substances called antibodies that fight infections. The excess growth of plasma cells interferes with the body's ability to make red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. This causes anaemia and makes a person more prone to infections and unusual bleeding. In this condition, cell release too much protein (called immunoglobulin) into the bones and blood. It builds up throughout the body and causes organ damage.

6) Myeloma (Multiple Myeloma)

The most common type of secondary bone cancer is called multiple myeloma which is a blood cancer related to lymphoma and leukaemia.

Myeloma : When this plasma cell multiplies abnormally, they form a tumor in the bone marrow called a myeloma.

When many such tumors grow and spread, it is called multiple myeloma. As multiple myeloma gets worse, those plasma cells begin to spill out of the bone marrow and spread through the body. This causes more organ damage.

The plasma cells also crowd normal blood cells in the bones. They release chemicals that dissolve bone. The weak areas of bone this creates are called lytic lesions.

As the cancer cells grow in the bone marrow, they cause pain and destruction of the bones. If the bones in the spine are affected, it can put pressure on the nerves, resulting in numbness or paralysis.

Like any other cancer, there are no defined causes for multiple myeloma to occur; however if someone has one of these below mentioned plasma cell diseases, the person is more likely to get multiple myeloma:

Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)

• Solitary plasmacytoma
Also
• More than 65 yrs of age
• Person of African-American origin
• Family history of cancer

Though it can’t usually be cured, there are treatments that slow down its spread.

Symptoms

Myeloma may not cause any symptoms in the beginning. Some people are diagnosed after a routine blood test, before any symptoms are noticed. Other people are diagnosed with myeloma after being admitted to hospital with more severe symptoms.

Symptoms may be caused by:

  • bone damage, which can cause pain, fractures, high calcium levels, pressure on the spine (spinal cord compression) or nerve problems
     
  • reduced number of normal blood cells, which may lead to anemia, tiredness and infections
     
  • paraproteins in the blood or urine, which can cause kidney problems, hyperviscosity or blood clots.
     
  • Other symptoms may include a poor appetite, or changes in bowel habits.

Stages of Multiple Myeloma

While many healthcare professionals use different staging measures, these are four stages cited by many doctors:

  • Smoldering: multiple myeloma with no symptoms
     
  • Stage I: early disease with little anemia, relatively small amount of M protein and no bone damage
     
  • Stage II: more anemia and M protein as well as bone damage
     
  • Stage III: still more M protein, anemia, as well as signs of kidney damage

In 2013, an international group divided stages into three stages based on two criteria, the concentration of beta-2-microglobulin and serum albumin levels; over time this defined criteria may become widely accepted.

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