Myeloma, also known as plasma cell myeloma or Kahler's disease, is a type of cancer of the blood that affects the plasma cells. Plasma cells are a type of white blood cell responsible for producing antibodies, the proteins found in the blood that work to fight foreign materials such as bacteria and viruses. Myeloma therapy options include medications, chemotherapy, and supportive care for individual symptoms.
As is the case with all blood cells, plasma cells are made in the bone marrow. These cells tend to stay in the bone marrow, so myeloma usually occurs in the large bones, such as the spine, hips, and skull. When the cancer cells are found in only one area, the disease is called plasmacytoma, and when it is found in several areas, it is referred to as multiple myeloma. The immune system is affected by myeloma because the plasma cells are a key part of the human immune system.
Once diagnosed with myeloma, the patient will likely be referred to either a hematologist, a doctor who specializes in blood disorders, or an oncologist, a doctor who specializes in cancer treatment. Both are qualified to assist the patient in myeloma therapy. Treatment will be individualized, as symptoms vary greatly from person to person, depending on the severity of the disease and the parts of the body affected.
Chemotherapy is often the preferred method of myeloma therapy. In chemotherapy treatments, a combination of chemicals are introduced into the body in an effort to kill the cancerous cells. While most chemotherapy drugs are given intravenously, some oral medications are sometimes used as well. This type of treatment does have some potential negative side effects, including hair loss, fatigue, and a weakened immune system. Careful monitoring by medical staff is important during this kind of myeloma therapy.
Radiation is another common form of myeloma therapy. This method of treatment works by destroying the DNA of the cancerous cells, often preventing the cells from being able to multiply or spread. While there is no pain caused from the radiation itself, some patients report a temporary spike in pain in the first few days following treatment. This is likely due to inflamed nerves or tissues. Fatigue and skin irritation may sometimes occur in large dosages.
Supportive therapy used in myeloma therapy involves treating symptoms such as anemia or osteoporosis. There is a huge success rate in treating myeloma as long as it is diagnosed in its earliest stages. Regular check-ups should help detect any potential cancer symptoms before the disease has the chance to become advanced.