Shedding some light on Multiple Myeloma

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Dr. Janet Seabrook

By Dr. Janet Seabrook

If I ask a room full of people if they have ever heard of lung or breast cancer, it’s likely that all hands would go up. If asked the same of Multiple Myeloma, there would probably be considerably less hands in the air. March is Myeloma Action Month and a perfect time for me to shed some light on this little known cancer.

According to Myeloma.org, “Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the bone marrow plasma cells, white blood cells that make antibodies. A cancerous or malignant plasma cell is called a myeloma cell. Myeloma is called ‘multiple’ because there are frequently multiple patches or areas in the bone where it grows.”

While Multiple Myeloma is not as well-known as many other cancers, it is the second most common blood cancer in the world. In fact, there are more than 225,000 people living with the disease with another 110,000+ cases being diagnosed annually. The encouraging news is that the death rates connected to this condition are declining at an approximate rate of .8% annually.

Multiple Myeloma has several causes/triggers including exposure to toxic chemicals like benzene, dioxins, engine exhaust, some fuels and even cleaning products. There have also been cases linked to atomic radiation, cancer-causing viruses such as HIV, Hepatitis virus and some herpes viruses among others. There is also a small percentage of cases that result from heredity. So if you have a family member who has been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, it would be a good idea to speak with your physician and arrange a screening.

Awareness and early detection can ultimately help with treatment and the decline in death rate. So, here are a few more facts you should know about Multiple Myeloma*:

Symptoms

  • Persistent or worsening tiredness due to anemia or reduced kidney function
  • Sudden pain due to a broken bone in the spine, ribs, or elsewhere
  • Recurrent unexplained infections, such as pneumonia, sinus, or urinary infection

Signs

  • Pain with movement and/or at night/rest
  • Pain tenderness/swelling of bone areas
  • Swelling, shortness of breath or evidence of heart or kidney failure (late stages of the disease)

Throughout the month of March there will be an increased amount of activities to help raise awareness of Multiple Myeloma. If you are interested in getting involved or starting a local effort, be sure to visit www.mam.myeloma.org to get started.

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