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Multiple Myeloma

Multiple Myeloma Symptoms and Causes

The Hematologic Malignancies Program at the North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute offers state-of -the-art diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for Multiple Myeloma and other cancers of the blood and lymphatic systems. Our cancer experts are world renowned leaders in both the study and frontline treatment of hematologic cancers. They work closely with an interdisciplinary team of specialists to provide compassionate and individualized care using the latest protocols of chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted drug therapy.

Our Institute is one of the largest acute leukemia treatment centers in the nation. We have been designated a “Myelodysplastic Syndrome Center of Excellence” by the Myelodysplastic Syndrome Foundation. Our basic science research program for chronic lymphocytic leukemia led by Dr. Nicholas Chiorazzi and clinical therapeutic trials program under the leadership of Dr. Kanti Rai are models in their field and enjoy an international reputation for excellence.

Regional Leaders in Leukemia and Stem Cell Transplants

Our dedicated leukemia and stem cell transplant centers are among the largest in the New York area.  Our Adult and Pediatric Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Programs are the only transplant programs in the Long Island, Queens, and Brooklyn area accredited by the prestigious Foundation for Accreditation in Cellular Therapy (FACT) for exceptional patient care and medical practices.

World Leaders in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Treatment

Our Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Research and Treatment Program has become a world-renowned landmark for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), one of the most common forms of leukemia in adults. 

Multiple Myeloma: An Overview

To aid you in understanding what is happening when you have cancer, it helps to understand how your body works normally. Our bodies are made up of tiny building blocks called cells. Normal cells grow and multiply when the body needs them and die out when the body does not need them.

Multiple myeloma is cancer that begins in the plasma cells. These are a type of white blood cell. Plasma cells make proteins that help our body fight disease. These cells are in the soft inner part of our bones, called the bone marrow. Multiple myeloma starts when plasma cells become abnormal. It’s also known as myeloma or plasma cell myeloma.

Although this cancer starts in blood cells, it has an enormous effect on bones. Cancerous plasma cells are called myeloma cells. They make large numbers of abnormal proteins called M proteins. M proteins crowd normal bone marrow and harm the bone structure. Your bones may become weak and more likely to break. Because the myeloma cells crowd the normal cells, there is not enough room for the bone marrow to make as many healthy cells. Several kinds of blood problems may result.

  • Low red-blood-cell count — This condition is called anemia. It is identified by a blood test. It can cause tiredness as well as other problems.
  • Low white-blood-cell count — This condition is called neutropenia. It weakens the body’s defenses against infection.
  • Low platelet count — This condition is called thrombocytopenia. It may lead to bleeding.

Because they destroy bone, myeloma cells can cause stored calcium from the bone to be released into the bloodstream. This can lead to too much calcium in the blood, called hypercalcemia. Hypercalcemia can harm the heart, nerves and kidneys. These are some signs of hypercalcemia:

  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Frequent thirst
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting

Other common symptoms that may be signs of multiple myeloma include the following:

  • Bone pain
  • Weight loss
  • Repeated infections
  • Weakness or numbness in legs
  • Broken bones, usually in the spine
  • Rib pain

The symptoms of multiple myeloma may be much like those of other bone diseases or medical problems. Always consult a doctor for a diagnosis.

What Are the Risk Factors for Myeloma Bone Disease?

Suggested risk factors for myeloma bone disease include the following:

  • Age (occurs rarely under the age of 40)
  • Family history
  • Exposure to petroleum and other chemicals
  • Exposure to high amounts of radiation
  • Twice as common among African-Americans as Caucasian Americans

What Are the Symptoms of Myeloma Bone Disease?

The following are the most common symptoms for myeloma bone disease. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Myeloma cells and antibodies may cause the following:

  • Bone pain
  • Fractures in bones
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Repeated infections
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Problems with urination
  • Weakness or numbness in legs
  • Back pain
  • Rib pain

The symptoms of myeloma bone disease may resemble other bone disorders or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How Is Myeloma Bone Disease Diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for myeloma bone disease may include the following:

  • X-ray — a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film
  • Blood and urine tests
  • Bone marrow aspiration and/or biopsy — a procedure that involves taking a small amount of bone marrow fluid (aspiration) and/or solid bone marrow tissue (called a core biopsy), usually from the hip bones, to be examined for the number, size and maturity of blood cells and/or abnormal cells
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) — a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radio frequencies and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body

How Is Multiple Myeloma Treated?

Specific treatment for myeloma bone disease will be determined by your physician based on:

  • Your age, overall health and medical history
  • Extent of the disease
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disease
  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Medications (to control pain)
  • Fracture treatment
  • Radiation therapy (to control pain)
  • Chemotherapy
  • IMiDs and biological response modifiers — substances that modify or interfere with myeloma cell growth
  • Bone marrow transplantation or stem cell transplantation

Multiple Myeloma Clinical Trials

The North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute offers a full array of clinical trials. The result of this research not only impacts survival, but also enhances the quality of life. For more information about clinical trials for Multiple Myeloma, visit Cancer Clinical Trials.

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