Though there is currently no known cure, West Cancer Center & Research Institute is dedicated to speciality treatment and a research department to care for all multiple myeloma patients and their families. We are able to offer the latest therapies, ongoing surveillance, and management for those with MGUS, smoldering myeloma, and symptomatic myeloma.
What is Myeloma?
Myeloma is cancer of the plasma cells. Plasma cells are white blood cells that produce disease- and infection-fighting antibodies in your body. Myeloma cells prevent the normal production of antibodies, leaving your body’s immune system weakened and susceptible to infection. The multiplication of myeloma cells also interferes with the normal production and function of red and white blood cells. An abnormally high amount of these dysfunctional antibodies in the bloodstream can cause kidney damage. Additionally, the myeloma cells commonly produce substances that cause bone destruction, leading to bone pain and/or fractures.
Myeloma cells are produced in the bone marrow, the soft tissue inside your bones. Sometimes myeloma cells will travel through your blood stream and collect in other bones in your body. Because myeloma frequently occurs at many sites in the bone marrow, it is often referred to as multiple myeloma.
Stages of Myeloma
The blood levels are as follows:
- beta-2-microglobulin level is lower than 3.5 mg/L; and
- albumin level is 3.5 g/dL or higher.
Blood levels are in between the levels for stage I and stage III.
Blood level of beta-2-microglobulin is 5.5 mg/L or higher and the patient also has one of the following:
- high levels of lactate dehydrogenase(LDH); or
- certain changes in the chromosomes
Symptoms of Myeloma
Signs and symptoms of myeloma can vary and, early in the disease, there may be none. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, we urge you to speak to your provider as soon as possible for further examination.
- Bone pain, especially in your spine or chest
- Loss of appetite
- Mental fogginess or confusion
- Frequent infections
- Weight loss
- Weakness or numbness in your legs
- Excessive thirst
How to Diagnose Myeloma
To find out if there are abnormal plasma cells in the bone marrow, a bone marrow biopsy has to be done. In patients with multiple myeloma, they often have a monoclonal protein in their blood, which is a marker for the number of plasma cells in their bone marrow.
Monoclonal protein can be measured in 3 ways:
1. Serum protein electrophoresis (SPEP)
2. Quantitative immunoglobulins (QIMG)
3. Serum free light chains (SFLC)
Finally, to have multiple myeloma, the plasma cells must cause damage to your body. There are four major ways this can happen and they are called CRAB criteria. The first three types of damage can be measured from the blood, but the bone lesions require an x-ray or MRI.
Types of Myeloma Treatments
There is no cure for myeloma, but with treatment, people can live for many years. The goal is to knock down the plasma cells and maintain them at low or undetectable levels. Unfortunately, despite being undetectable, they always eventually return.
Some of the medications used are older chemotherapies, but also include newer medicines, which can be taken as pills. If possible, an *autologous stem cell transplant is used to achieve a deep remission after a period of chemotherapy.