What is multiple myeloma?

Multiple myeloma is an oncological pathology, that is, a cancer of the human being. It originates in the bone marrow, which It is the forming tissue of blood cells that will then circulate throughout the body.

The bone marrow is found inside the bones of the body and, from there, originates cells that move to the blood tissue. Among those cells, a variety are plasma cells, which are guilty of multiple myeloma when multiplying abnormally in excess.

Under normal conditions, plasma cells have the function of fighting infections. This task is accomplished through the production of substances known as antibodies. Antibodies recognize infectious agents that try to make humans sick and attack them.

In multiple myeloma, since there is an abnormal amount of plasma cells, there is also an abnormal production of antibodies. This does not generate greater defenses, on the contrary, it favors infections and the complications derived from them.

Risk factors of multiple myeloma

There are a number of factors that make a person more likely to suffer from multiple myeloma. Among them:

  • Age: at an older age there is a greater chance of getting this cancer Those over sixty-five are the most affected.
  • Family background: there are families with a certain predisposition to the condition. It is not a determining factor, but the risk of having a father or brother with the disease increases.
  • Being male: The male sex has more prevalence of this cancer than women.
  • Be of African American descent: African Americans are a group with a higher risk of having multiple myeloma than the rest of the population.
Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer, the second most frequent of this type.

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Cancer symptoms

Sometimes, the diagnosis of multiple myeloma is delayed because of non-specific symptoms. It is a pathology in which most signs are confusing with other diseases. If the doctor does not have a clear suspicion, or does not detect something unusual in the complementary methods, there is a risk of delay.

Among the most common symptoms we have:

  • Bone pain: primarily in the bones of the trunk of the body, chest and back.
  • Gastrointestinal Changes: This includes vomiting and constipation.
  • Inapetence: lack of hunger, if sustained over time, leads to weight loss with weight loss.
  • Repeated infections: weakened defenses, as we explained, favor the entry of microorganisms that generate infections. These microorganisms can produce common infections that do not resolve quickly.

Diagnosis of multiple myeloma

The first step in diagnosing multiple myeloma is to suspect it. This is very difficult because of the nonspecific symptoms of the disease. On the other hand, It may happen that the results of a laboratory requested by another cause orient the doctor's suspicion.

The laboratory test par excellence is the search for the monoclonal antibody. It is an abnormal protein that has been baptized as Protein M and, if it appears, is indicative of multiple myeloma.

The second step in the diagnostic process is bone marrow biopsy.. It involves taking a portion of the bone marrow, aspirating from inside a bone to examine that tissue under a microscope. Thus, it is possible to see in the foreground in what conditions the plasma cells are.

The sample taken is also usually performed:

  • Cytogenetics: It is an analysis on the DNA of the aspirated cells.
  • Immunohistochemistry: to differentiate normal cells from abnormal ones.
  • Flow cytometry: in order to determine if the abnormal cells are from multiple myeloma or another blood cancer such as lymphoma.
The definitive diagnosis of multiple myeloma is achieved through a bone marrow biopsy.

Keep discovering: What is a biopsy?

Treatment for multiple myeloma

The treatment of multiple myeloma requires a multidisciplinary approach involving different specialists. The cancer team that treats these patients includes hematologists and, as far as possible, hematologists with experience in this oncological disease.

Radiation therapy is one of the therapeutic options. Multiple myeloma is sensitive to medical radiation, which can reduce the extent of the disease and also control the bone pain that is generated by the disease.

Chemotherapy is indicated in people where multiple myeloma has advanced. Unfortunately, survival rates are low in patients undergoing chemotherapy. It is estimated that the number of survivors is less than a third more than five years old.

By last, a treatment that is very effective, and that has many scientific studies that support it, is the transplant. For this case, bone marrow autotransplantation is used.

In conclusion

Multiple myeloma is a serious disease. Like all cancer requires timely diagnosis to improve the chances of survival. So if you have symptoms that make you suspect, or a family history of the disease, it is better to consult and remove doubts.

Upon suspicion, Medical professionals can guide the diagnostic process to perform the necessary tests at all times. And if necessary, apply the best available treatment that is continually being studied and reviewed.