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Multiple Myeloma is a type of cancer that impacts the plasma cells in the bone marrow. It is characterized by the proliferation and multiplication of these cells resulting in the production of antibodies that can potentially harm various systems within the body. 

Diagnosing this cancer can be quite complex because its symptoms tend to manifest slowly and can vary significantly. In this discussion, we will explore the indication of Multiple Myeloma and emphasize why detecting it early is crucial for ensuring successful treatment.

What is Multiple Myeloma?

Multiple Myeloma is a form of blood cancer that mainly impacts plasma cells. These cells, also known as B cells, have a role in our system as they produce antibodies called immunoglobulins to combat infections. 

However, when Multiple Myeloma develops it interferes with the functioning of these plasma cells, which can result in health complications. Consequently, this rare disease presents a hurdle for our body’s defense mechanisms against illnesses and infections.

Related: Multiple Myeloma Webcast: Understanding MM and its Impact

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What Are the Initial Signs of Multiple Myeloma?

Multiple Myeloma exhibits a variety of symptoms, and patients often first notice bone pain. This condition can result in weakness or tingling sensations in the arms and legs as it can potentially affect the bones leading to their collapse and putting pressure on the spinal cord. Let’s delve deeper into signs to consider.

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Fatigue and Weakness

Patients experience fatigue and weakness to the point where daily activities become challenging. These are common signs of anemia, another symptom of Multiple Myeloma. 

Hypercalcemia

Patients might experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and feeling unusually thirsty. These symptoms could be a sign of a lack of calcium in the blood, also known as hypercalcemia.

Unexplained Weight Loss and Fever

Patients may experience unexplained weight loss and fever, possibly indicating a bacterial infection. 

Bruising or Bleeding

Easy bruising or bleeding may be evident, suggesting that abnormal plasma cells are hindering the production of sufficient platelets, the blood components responsible for clotting. 

Confusion

Confusion or a “foggy” mental state can occur, adding to the array of symptoms associated with Multiple Myeloma.

Weakened Immune System

Patients with Multiple Myeloma often experience a weakened system making them vulnerable to infections. Even simple infections, like colds and urinary tract infections can be challenging for their compromised system to fight off. Therefore, individuals who frequently suffer from infections may require a blood test to determine if it could be an indication of Multiple Myeloma.

What Causes Multiple Myeloma?

The exact causes of Multiple Myeloma remain unclear to healthcare providers and researchers. However, they are currently examining several potential factors that may contribute to developing this rare form of blood cancer.

Genetic Mutations

One possibility under investigation is genetic mutations, specifically changes in oncogenes, which are cells that promote growth. Research has shown that most people with Multiple Myeloma lack all pieces of a specific chromosome, suggesting a possible genetic link to the disease.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors are also being considered. Some studies indicate potential associations between multiple Myeloma and exposure to radiation or certain chemicals found in pesticides, fertilizers, or Agent Orange, a herbicide used during the Vietnam War.

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Inflammatory Disease

Additionally, having an inflammatory disease or condition, such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis, could potentially increase the risk of developing Multiple Myeloma.

Obesity

Lastly, obesity, characterized by excessive body fat levels, is being researched as a potential contributing factor. However, more research is needed to fully understand the complex factors contributing to the onset of multiple Myeloma.

Are you curious about the distinct genetic expression in rapidly progressing Multiple Myeloma? Check out our oncology research here.

How Is Multiple Myeloma Diagnosed?

Diagnosing Multiple Myeloma involves a comprehensive approach and is often initiated with a physical examination, an in-depth discussion about symptoms, and a review of the patient’s family medical history. Based on these initial findings, healthcare providers may conduct a number of tests to confirm the diagnosis and determine the stage or location of the cancer tumor(s).

Blood Tests

Blood tests are commonly used in diagnosing Multiple Myeloma, which includes a complete blood count (CBC). A blood chemistry test can provide insights into kidney function through creatine levels, protein levels through albumin, calcium levels, and lactic dehydrogenase (LDH) levels, which serve as tumor markers. The quantitative immunoglobulin test measures specific antibody levels in the blood, and electrophoresis looks for the presence of M proteins.

Urine Tests

Urine tests, often collected over 24 hours at home, are utilized to detect Bence Jones protein, another indicator of Multiple Myeloma. 

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests, such as MRIs, X-rays, CT scans, and PET scans, are employed to identify any bone damage or the presence of plasmacytomas, or groups of abnormal plasma cells.

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Bone Marrow Biopsy

In some cases, bone marrow biopsies may be performed to determine the proportion of normal and abnormal plasma cells and to test for any DNA changes that could potentially drive cancer growth. 

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Stages of Myeloma

Staging is a crucial process in understanding the extent of cancer, including multiple Myeloma. It helps to determine the size and location of the cancer, laying the groundwork for treatment planning. The staging process for multiple Myeloma begins with categorizing the condition into one of four classifications:

  1. MGUS (Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance): Blood tests reveal small amounts of M protein. Approximately 1% to 2% of people with MGUS eventually develop Multiple Myeloma.
  2. Solitary or Isolated Plasmacytomas: These are isolated groups of abnormal plasma cells.
  3. SMM (Smoldering Multiple Myeloma): This is a precancerous form of Multiple Myeloma. People with SMM may exhibit mild symptoms, along with blood tests showing small amounts of M protein and increased plasma cells in their bone marrow.
  4. Multiple Myeloma: This classification suggests that tests have revealed clusters of abnormal plasma cells in the bone marrow along with increased M proteins in the urine or blood.

Related: Real-World Data-Derived Response in Multiple Myeloma

Understanding Multiple Myeloma

It is crucial to detect Multiple Myeloma early in order to prevent its progression. If you experience any of the mentioned symptoms, visit a healthcare professional asap. However, healthcare professionals should also consider the seriousness of the symptoms by conducting tests to confirm whether it is indeed Multiple Myeloma. 

Identifying the signs of Multiple Myeloma requires collaboration between patients, healthcare professionals, and caregivers. Thus, it is important not to ignore any symptoms.