Multiple myeloma is a cancer that develops in plasma cells, a type of white blood cell. Healthy plasma cells help fight off infection by producing antibodies, molecules that fight against viruses.
Multiple myeloma occurs when the cancerous plasma cells build up in the bones and bone marrow, the spongy center of bones where blood is made. These cancerous cells crowd the healthy blood cells. It is called multiple myeloma because many bones are affected.
Common symptoms of multiple myeloma are:
- Pain in bones, usually in the back
- Weight loss
- Constipation or nausea
- Feelings of extreme thirst
- Easily exhaustible
- Feeling the need to urinate often
When a patient presents with symptoms that may suggest multiple myeloma, your doctor will use several diagnostic methods to make an accurate diagnosis.
1. Your doctor will ask for a complete medical history and will perform a thorough physical examination. Diagnostic tests may include:
- Blood Tests
- Biopsies. During a biopsy, a small sample of bone marrow and/or bone is taken from the hip or another large bone so doctors can look at its make-up in order to find any signs of abnormal changes.
There are two common types of biopsy used to help diagnose blood cancers and diseases:
- Bone marrow aspiration--the sample of bone marrow is taken by putting a thin needle into the bone and removing a sample of the marrow
- Bone marrow biopsy--a sample of both the bone and bone marrow is taken from the bone with a thick needle
Once a bone marrow sample is obtained, it can be analyzed in a laboratory by a pathologist to determine what type of blood cancer or disease is present.
2. Your doctor may want to do further tests. These tests may include radiographic evaluations.
If multiple myeloma is diagnosed before symptoms appear, it may be not need to be treated right away, and instead may be closely watched.
Multiple myeloma is commonly treated with:
Treatment is different for every patient. Our team of specialists at the Center for Hematologic Malignancies is highly experienced at working with patients to develop effective individualized treatment plans, using our comprehensive approach to cancer treatment.
Learn more about technologies for treatment.
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