Multiple Myeloma is a type of blood cancer. Fatigue and anemia are common symptoms. Multiple Myeloma can be treated.
Multiple Myeloma (MM) is a rare type of cancer that affects plasma cells,
which are a subtype of white blood cells. It accounts for slightly more than 10% of hematological malignancies. Although incurable it is a treatable condition. Current research is bringing new hope of cure for the patients and better management techniques to help them better cope with this disease condition.
Multiple Myeloma caught public attention when model turned actress Lisa Ray, who worked in Deepa Mehta’s ‘Water’, declared that she had the incurable Multiple Myeloma. Not so long ago the disease had caught the world’s attention when there were reports that some of the responders who worked at ground zero, immediately after the 9/11 attacks developed MM; several of them were below the age of 45, breaking the conventional belief that it was a disease of the old age.
Multiple myeloma is the second most common blood cancer (after non-Hodgkin's lymphoma) and accounts for 1% of all cancers in US’s White population and 2% of all cancers in the Blacks.
Recently there appears to be an increasing incidence of the disease and at an earlier age of onset. It is more common in men than women. The average age at diagnosis for men is 62 years while for women it is 61 years. The vast majority of the diagnosed were below the age of 45.
To understand MM it is important to understand a little more about the normal blood cells.
The blood cells comprise of –
• Red Blood cells
- They carry oxygen to the various tissues in the body.
• White blood cells
– Their main role is to fight infection. The T and the B-lymphocytes are the major crusaders, of which the B lymphocytes give rise to the plasma cell
which are responsible for producing antibodies. There are different antibodies and each type of plasma cell make a different antibody.
– They play a role in blood clotting and bleeding prevention.
Each of these blood cells originate from the stem cells of the bone marrow. In a normal person old blood cells die and are replaced by new ones. But, in the case of a patient with myeloma, a malfunction in the stem cell precursor of plasma cells leads to an abnormality and this abnormal cell divides several -fold to form a tumor. With time, the abnormal Myeloma cells, which produce the M antibodies, take over the entire bone marrow. The interaction between the plasma cells and the bone marrow microenvironment is as important a reason as the genetic changes, in the formation of myeloma cells.
Myeloma cells produce cytokines and growth factors that help it to proliferate. It decreases the body’s immune response by inactivating the immune system to ensure its survival.
Multiple Myeloma is the most common of all plasma cell tumors. As the tumors grow, they invade the solid tissue or the hard outer part of the bone. Usually, the myeloma cells find their way into the cavities of the body’s large bones forming multiple small lesions -which is why the cancer is known as "multiple" myeloma.
The frequency of multiple myeloma is 5 to 7 new cases per 100,000 persons per year.
Multiple Myeloma is not contagious; it can be treated, and its symptoms managed.