Although it is considered a rare disease, multiple myeloma (MM) is the second type of blood cancer with the highest incidence in the world, surpassed in this category only by non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas..
Although MM is an incurable cancer, notorious for its continuous and varied relapses (i.e. return of symptoms after receiving treatment or after a period of remission)there are certain factors that can improve people’s quality of life, such as timely detection and advances in new therapies.
How have prognoses for patients improved?
Thanks to important advances, such as the research and development of new drugs, in the last ten years an average survival of 2 to 3 years has increased to an average of 8 to 10 years.
However, “diagnosis is not easy and can be delayed for several months because early signs and symptoms, such as weakness, frequent urination, recurrent back pain, and neuropathies (usual cramps or tingling in the legs and hands) can be confused with other diseases”, indicated Dr. Daniel Franco de la Torre, specialist in the therapeutic area for Hematology at Bristol Myers Squibb Mexico (BMS).
The expert explained that MM is a cancer characterized by the development of abnormal plasma cells (a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies to fight infections and diseases), which accumulate in the bone marrow and form tumors in different parts of the body, which prevents the bone marrow from making enough healthy blood cells (red and white blood cells, and platelets).
Multiple myeloma cells also produce a protein antibody, called M protein, that the body doesn’t need, limiting it to fight infection and causing the blood to thicken, which can cause kidney damage
How to identify these first signs as symptoms of MM at an early stage?
The specialist referred to an acrostic called CRAB:
- (C) high Calcium
- (R) Renal Failure
- (A) Anemia
- (B) of Bone (bone in English) for the injuries and fractures it causes without apparent cause
For example, between 70 and 80% of patients with MM have bone problems affecting 66% of the vertebrae, 45% of the ribs, 40% of the skull and 30% of the pelvis.
What to do in case of symptoms?
It is necessary to go to the hematologist to obtain complete information and access to the best available treatments, which vary according to the age of the patient, the state or stage of the cancer, the degree of involvement and, above all, whether or not it responds to therapy.
“Unfortunately there are those who do not respond to treatment (refractory myeloma), hence the importance of offering personalized therapies,” said Dr. Franco de la Torre. “We cannot let people live thinking about relapses all the time and continue to suffer from these symptoms, the ideal is that they can live with the disease in the best possible way.”
Regarding the affectations in the family, social or work environment, people “can approach patient organizations that, together with their doctor, will teach them how to cope with the roller coaster that represents relapses and learn to live with it” , he added.
Oncology medicine has made important advances in recent years, especially in the field of immunotherapy (a type of treatment that stimulates the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer ), but there is still a long way to go.
For this reason, the specialist highlighted the investment projects that the biopharmaceutical company BMS allocates to clinical research, continuing medical education and strategic partnerships with other companies and scientific organizations to help patients overcome serious illnesses such as multiple myeloma.
CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR for more information.
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