Improving Quality of Life Through Treatment
Individuals with multiple myeloma are adding years to their lives through advancing treatments.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the bone marrow, or the soft, inner part of the bone. For reasons unknown, plasma cells within bone marrow can multiply out of control, and cause damage to your bones. Over time, these cancer cells can collect in multiple areas of bone marrow, giving this cancer the name, ‘multiple’ myeloma.
“Many patients become anemic and show fatigue as common symptoms of this disease,” says oncologist and hematologist Michael Raymond, M.D.
Anemia, or having a low number of red blood cells, is a sign of multiple myeloma that includes:
- Feeling light-headed
- Feeling unusually cold
- Pale skin
- Low energy level, along with tiring easily
- Difficulties with memory and concentration
Many people don’t find out they have multiple myeloma, or kidney failure—another sign of the disease—until they have to go to the hospital for a spontaneous fractured or broken bone. “One aspect of multiple myeloma is that it can create pathological fractures by surrounding bone and weakening it until it can no longer support weight or function properly,” Dr. Raymond says.
“A patient can come in and say something as simple as, ‘I sat down and reached over to grab for something and then felt a pop.’ Best case scenario is a broken toe, but most of the time, we see the worst, which is a fractured or broken spine.”
The older you get, the more common it is. “Like most cancers, multiple myeloma is more common in the older population, but I have seen patients as young as in their 30s,” Dr. Raymond says.
“Most of the time, we don’t know how it is caused, but we do know exposure to radioactivity is a potential reason. I had a patient a couple of years ago who was a prisoner of war during the time of the Hiroshima bombing. He survived the blast, but he came down with multiple myeloma.” Most patients go through treatment for multiple myeloma the remainder of their lives and years of survival are possible. “Treatment options are evolving at a rapid pace,” Dr. Raymond says.
“Along with stem cell transplants and highly targeted chemotherapy, new drugs come out every 2-3 months. Biological therapy drugs work with your immune system to identify and attack cancer cells.”
The treatment of multiple myeloma is improving on a continuous basis. “The best treatment we have today is not nearly as good as the best treatment down the road,” Dr. Raymond says. “When we see people who are diagnosed with it now, we have hopes in new treatments, while they’re still living, with a good quality of life.”