Multiple myeloma is an aggressive cancer that starts in red blood cells, a very important type of cell. These cells normally are part of the white blood cells, which help protect the entire body from viruses and other dangerous substances. Over time, multiple myeloma cells gather in the bone and in the various solid portions of the body. This aggressive cancer is called non-Hodgkins lymphoma or NSAM. Multiple myelomas that have spread to the lymph nodes (white blood cells in the lungs, abdomen, or cervix) may not be as serious, but they should be monitored regularly by a doctor.
The three main stages of multiple myeloma are: first stage, second stage, and third stage. There are several symptoms associated with each of these stages. Each stage can continue to grow, if treatment is given during the first two stages. If no symptoms are apparent during the first two stages, however, the chances of successful treatment in these early stages are low.
The first stage of this disease is generally not very severe, as myeloma cells usually do not invade surrounding tissue, or spread beyond the bone marrow. Myeloma tumors that are caught at this early stage can be removed surgically. However, in some instances, the cancer has grown too big or was already growing when the tumor was removed, that it has become too risky. This is often the case with large initial malignancies.
Second stage treatment options include traditional surgery and radiation therapy. The first step in the second stage treatment is usually chemotherapy. Chemotherapy often involves a combination of targeted drugs and blood transfusions. The hope for multiple myeloma patients is that these treatments will prolong life and increase the chance of a successful outcome. However, even with treatment, the overall survival rate can be poor. In addition, the outlook for a patient's long term health usually dim.
Third stage treatment options include trying to target the cancerous plasma cells with immunotherapy. This option has shown some success, but not enough to be guaranteed. Multiple myeloma antibodies can be used to encourage the production of healthy blood cells, which should improve the patient's quality of life. Unfortunately, while multiple myeloma antibodies are now effective, there is still no known cure. However, many doctors are hopeful that with further research and development, new medications will be able to cure the disease entirely.
Medications are often used to treat multiple myeloma. These drugs can reduce the pain and swelling associated with the disease, as well as reduce the chance that the cancerous plasma cells will be able to grow and divide. Common treatments include chemotherapy and radiation. While the treatment can be extremely effective in many cases, it can have some serious side effects, including hair loss, vomiting, nausea, and bone pain.
Doctors often choose to treat multiple myeloma using a combination of treatments. Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are sometimes used together. Rarely, a myeloid leukemia blanket, a highly toxic medication, is used. A myeloid leukemia blanket is designed to block the immune system from fighting off the cancer. However, despite its lethal effects, the disease often reappears after several years. This is because if it is found early enough, it can be successfully treated.
Scientists believe that multiple myeloma and its protein production are linked to a condition called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (mgus). This condition is caused by the excessive production of a protein called gammopathy-like immunoglobulin, or more commonly called GMP, by cancer cells. Treatments for this condition can also destroy abnormal plasma cells in patients who have multiple myeloma.
Multiple myeloma can begin in one of four different stages: initial tumor, staging, advance, or late-stage. The first stage, initial tumor, causes a simple enlargement of the plasma cells, typically as large as four or five centimeters in diameter, and can be present at any point along the cell's growth cycle. This is the least serious of the four stages.
Staging is a process that aims to remove the cancer from the earliest stages possible. Stage I of multiple sclerosis involves a slow but progressive increase in the size of the plasma cells. During the second stage, the growth of the plasma cells continues at a steady rate, but slows considerably. The third stage, called the prognosis stage, describes how many months the patient may live. At this stage, the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body and does not invade other organs. Late-stage multiple sclerosis includes symptoms such as fatigue, paralysis, and cognitive impairment.
Treatments include blood transfusions for patients who do not respond well to blood transfusion or those whose bone marrow is not providing enough antibodies to fight off the disease. Surgery is often used to remove the bulk of the tumor and to reduce the chances of future complications. Radiation therapy is sometimes used. Multiple Myeloma survivors can pursue a number of treatment options. The prognosis for the disease is good, with a 50 percent chance of full recovery.
Steve Schafer is the founder of TheEulogyWriters and is probably the most prolific eulogy writer (and, no doubt, the best) anywhere. He lives in Michigan and has been writing eulogies for well over thirty years. The articles in this blog are designed to help people through the process of losing loved ones.