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Multiple myeloma is a cancer of your plasma cells, a type of white blood cell present in your bone marrow. Plasma cells normally make proteins called antibodies to help you fight infections. In multiple myeloma, a group of abnormal plasma cells (myeloma cells) multiplies, raising the number of plasma cells to a higher than normal level. Since these cells normally make proteins, the level of abnormal proteins in your blood also may go up. Health problems caused by multiple myeloma can affect your bones, immune system, kidneys and red blood cell count.
Complications of Myeloma
Multiple myeloma can result in several complications:
Causes of Myeloma
The cause of myeloma is unknown. Several factors have been linked to myeloma, including genetic abnormalities, exposures to certain chemicals and other conditions in the workplace (petrochemical industry workers, leather workers, book binders, cosmetologists, shipyard workers, metallurgic industry workers), exposure to very large doses of radiation, certain viral infections, and immune system dysfunction. However, how any of these factors actually causes myeloma is unknown. Some people who develop myeloma have none of these risk factors.
Signs & Symptoms of Myeloma
Signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma can vary from person to person. Although the condition may not cause symptoms early in the disease, it's likely that you'll experience one or more of the following as the disease progresses:
If you have a high calcium level in your blood, you may experience signs and symptoms such as:
Other signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma may include:
Diagnosis of Myeloma
Your doctor may first detect signs of multiple myeloma before you ever have symptoms -through blood and urine tests conducted during a routine physical exam. If you don't yet have symptoms, these lab tests may be repeated every few months so that your doctor can track whether your disease is progressing and determine the best time to start treatment.
Blood and urine tests
You may also need other tests. They may include:
Treatments of Myeloma
If you have multiple myeloma and aren't experiencing any symptoms, you may not need treatment. However, your doctors will regularly monitor your condition for signs that indicate the disease is progressing. If it is, you may need treatment to help prevent symptoms.
If you're experiencing symptoms, treatment can help relieve pain, control complications of the disease, stabilize your condition and slow the progress of the disease.
Standard treatments for myeloma
Though there's no cure for multiple myeloma, with good treatment results you can usually return to near-normal activity. You may wish to consider approved clinical trials as an option.
Standard treatment options include:
Prevention of Myeloma
There is no known way to prevent myeloma. A standard recommendation is to avoid the risk factors for the disease, but little is known concerning the risk factors for myeloma.
When to seek Medical Advice
If you're persistently more tired than you used to be, you've lost weight, and you experience bone pain, repeated infections, loss of appetite, excessive thirst and urination, persistent nausea, increased constipation, or weakness or numbness in your legs, your signs and symptoms may indicate multiple myeloma or other serious disease. See your doctor to determine the underlying cause.
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