Multiple Myeloma, also called, Kahler’s disease is the development of cancer cells in the plasma. Cancer occurs when the cells start abnormal growth in the bone marrow. These cancerous cells travel throughout the body and develop tumours in the bones.
B lymphocytes or B-cells in the bone marrow produce plasma cells. Plasma cells are responsible for synthesising antibodies to fight against infections. When these cells become cancerous, the immune system of the body is compromised.
In the early stages, a patient with multiple myeloma may not show any symptoms. The symptoms, however, begin to flare up gradually. These include:
- Frequent bone fractures
- Moderate to severe pain in bones
- Spinal cord compression
- Abrupt weight loss
- Frequent infections
- Difficulty breathing
- Weakness in arms and legs
- Extreme tiredness
The exact cause of multiple myeloma is unknown. The possible causes, however, include:
- Family history
- Gender: Men are more prone to multiple myeloma than women
Multiple myeloma is diagnosed by:
- Physical examination: The first test to diagnose multiple myeloma is a physical examination and study of medical history. The doctor will ask you about your previous medical conditions and surgical history. Furthermore, he will physically examine for swollen nodes, anaemia, or rashes.
- Blood test: A blood test will determine the number of certain proteins in the body. The doctor may also recommend a urine test to check for M protein and beta-2-microglobulin which confirms the presence of multiple myeloma.
- Bone marrow biopsy: The doctor will remove a part of bone marrow and evaluate it for the presence of cancer cells.
- Imaging tests: Various imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI, and CT scans will be conducted to get additional information about the condition.
The treatment for multiple myeloma will depend on the patient's age, stage of cancer, and underlying medical condition. The treatment will be a combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy.
- Active surveillance: In most cases, the multiple myeloma may not show any symptoms. This is called smouldering multiple myeloma. In such cases, the doctor waits for the cancer to show symptoms and closely monitors the patient
- Once the symptoms begin to show up, the doctor starts the therapy
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the mainstay of multiple myeloma. High doses of anti-cancer drugs will be administered to destroy multiple myeloma cells in some cases, chemotherapy is combined with radiation therapy to remove cells from the body
- Bone marrow transplant: In some cases, wherein the treatment with chemotherapy is not possible, the doctor may recommend a transplant. In this procedure, healthy bone marrow from a donor will be transplanted into the patient's body
- Immunotherapy: Specific biomolecules such as cytokines are injected into the body to fight against the cancer cells
- Corticosteroid therapy: Some corticosteroids may also be injected into the body to stop cancer cells from spreading