About the Condition
Multiple Myeloma occurs in the bone marrow, where blood cells are produced, and specifically affects plasma cells, which are part of the immune system. This type of cancer occurs when the genetic material of cells in the bone marrow become damaged or changed, producing mutations that affect normal cell growth and division. The abnormal cells then replicate, causing cancer. If undetected, the cancer can spread beyond the immune system and move to other parts of the body.
Myeloma produces an excess of abnormal plasma cells and often affects the production of other blood cells, including white cells, which fight infection, red cells, which carry oxygen, and platelets, which are involved in the clotting process. Myeloma often causes lesions in the bones and can affect vital organs in the body. Approximately 4,000 new cases of myeloma are diagnosed per year in the UK*.
The most common symptoms of myeloma include:
- Tiredness, due to the disease and anaemia.
- Tendency frequent infections, such as chest and bladder infections
- Bone pain and occasionally fractures.
If any of these symptoms apply to you, or if you have any concerns about similar symptoms, it is essential that you see your doctor at once, as your chances of recovery are much higher if your cancer is diagnosed early.
If you are referred to CCL for diagnosis, your consultant or oncologist will advise you on tests relevant to your symptoms. Early and accurate diagnosis is important in myeloma. The tests include:
- Blood and urine tests, which are used to detect abnormal blood cell counts and the proteins produced in this condition, and to examine other important indicators including calcium levels, renal function and albumin levels
- A biopsy of bone marrow, which is used to collect a sample to be examined to show the percentage of abnormal plasma cells, and for other tests such as genetic profiles.
- A Computerised Tomography (CT) scan, which shows a 3D image of the area being looked at
- A Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan, which is a procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body
- An X-ray, which is when low level radiation is used to create an image of the body
At CCL, patients with myeloma are treated by a team of different specialists, called a Multi-Disciplinary Team, or MDT, from our Haemato-Oncology department, headed by Professor Ray Powles, CBE. This team works together to create a treatment plan to suit the individual needs of the patient. Myeloma can be found at multiple sites in the body, so there are a variety of treatments available. Depending on the location of the myeloma, treatment could include:
- Radiotherapy, which is where high-energy rays are used to destroy the cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy, which involves the use of chemical agents which are toxic to cancer cells, destroying them and preventing them from spreading to different areas. This can be given by injection or in tablet form.
- Biotherapy, which is the use of newer and more targeted therapies to assist the body in fighting the disease.
- Autologous Stem Cell Transplant, which is a procedure involving the harvesting of a small amount of your own stem cells, which are then re-infused into your body following chemotherapy, to stimulate new marrow growth.
Occasionally, multiple myeloma patients will not require treatment, and will instead undergo monitoring to keep an eye on the condition.
We have a large multi-disciplinary team involved in your treatment, monitoring and support. These include specialist doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists and other allied healthcare professionals. The emphasis is on patients retaining a normal life where possible, with full support from relevant team members.
Cancer doesn’t just leave a physical impact on an individual, but that it can have a huge emotional effect as well. Cancer and its treatment can be overwhelming, causing a wide variety of emotions, and it is important to remember that there is no right or wrong response. Reactions vary hugely from person to person, and most people find that it becomes easier to cope when they’re given additional support, so that’s what we do.
At CCL we provide support both physically and emotionally before, during and after treatment. We offer a wide range of services for patients, as well as their loved ones, designed to make a very difficult time as easy as possible, and to give our patients the best treatment and support possible.
Multiple Myeloma Consultants