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Multiple Myeloma

What is Multiple Myeloma?

Accounting for nearly 10 per cent of haematological cancers in India, multiple myeloma is a malignancy that originates from the plasma cell, a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies for fighting infections. The cancerous cells produce abnormal proteins that lead to life-threatening complications. There is hardly any need for immediate treatment if the malignancy is progressing at a slow pace.

What are the symptoms that you need to look out for?

Various signs and symptoms that point towards the prevalence of multiple myeloma include:

  • Bone pain, especially in the thoracic area and back
  • Feeling nauseated
  • Constipation
  • Unintended loss of appetite
  • Increased vulnerability to infections
  • Confusion and chaos
  • general body weakness
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Weakness or numbness in the lower limbs
  • Excessive thirst

What causes Multiple Myeloma?

Multiple Myeloma is believed to be a result of undesired mutations in the DNA of the plasma cells which either promote cell growth by turning on oncogenes or slow down cell growth by turning odd tumour suppressor genes.

What are the various risk factors associated with Multiple Myeloma?

Various factors that elevate your risks of developing multiple myeloma include:

  • Age – The risks of multiple myeloma increase with advancing age. The malignancy is usually diagnosed in people in their mid-60s.
  • Sex – Multiple myeloma is much more common in males as compared to females
  • Family history – You are at a higher risk of developing multiple myeloma if any of your close family members have the same
  • Personal history of MGUS – This stands for monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance.

Screening and diagnosis

  • Blood tests - This involves a detailed analysis of your blood to look for the traces of M proteins and beta-2-microglobulin, which are produced by the myeloma cells. Blood tests also help to assess the patient’s kidney function, blood cell counts, calcium levels and uric acid levels.
  • Urine analysis – This is done to look for the signs of M proteins, also referred to as Bence Jones proteins.
  • Bone marrow biopsy – A sample of the patient’s bone marrow is evaluated thoroughly for any signs of malignancy. The sample is collected using the bone marrow aspiration technique and subjected to specialized tests like fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), which can help to detect any gene mutations.
  • Imaging tests – These include procedures like x-rays, MRI, CT scan and PET scan, for detecting and assessing any problem in the bones.


  • Targeted therapy – This involves the use of special drugs to target weaknesses present within the cancer cells. The drugs block such abnormalities leading to the death of the cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy – The therapy aims at boosting the patient’s immune system and help it fight cancer. The proteins produced by the malignant cells help to shield them from the patients’ immune system. immunotherapy helps to break this shield.
  • Chemotherapy –It involves the intravenous or oral administration of certain drugs that target and kill the cancerous cells. A high dose of chemotherapy is given before a bone marrow transplant, to pave way for the growth of new, healthy cells.
  • Corticosteroids – These help to regulate the immune system and help to bring the inflammation under control.
  • Bone marrow transplant – Also known as a stem cell transplant, the procedure aims at replacing diseased bone marrow with healthy stem cells.
  • Radiation therapy – It involves the use of high-energy radiations to target and destroy cancerous cells. In some cases, the doctors may use protons instead of radiation beams.

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