While cancer is widely known to be a deadly disease, it’s typically expected to only target people with certain conditions. With multiple myeloma, however, this is not the case, as all seniors over the age of 60 are vulnerable to this terminal illness.
While age certainly is a factor when it comes to the likelihood of contracting multiple myeloma, this disease can be combated if you detect it early on. Let’s get an understanding of the signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma so that you can get the necessary treatment.
What are the Early Warning Signs?
Because this is one of the lesser-known forms of cancer, many people do not actually understand what it is. Simply put, multiple myeloma is a form of cancer that attacks the plasma cells in your body.
While being over the age of 60 does make you more vulnerable to this disease, there are other factors that can also increase your chances of contracting multiple myeloma. These include being obese, being male, or being of African-American descent.
Even if none of these traits apply to you, you should never let your guard down. After all, multiple myeloma can affect anyone. While no early warning signs may be present at first, multiple myeloma signals will become more apparent as damaged plasma cells continue to multiply. Some of these signs include:
- Bone pain
- Higher vulnerability to bone fractures or breaks
- Pinched nerves
- Weaker immune system
How to Diagnose Multiple Myeloma
As soon as any of the above symptoms become apparent, you should seek medical assistance as soon as possible. Despite older people often going through regular screenings and tests, cancer tests are often not offered unless you specifically ask to do them.
There are four different types of tests that need to be done in order to properly diagnose multiple myeloma.
- Blood tests: Low cell blood count can indicate cancer
- Imaging tests: MRIs, CT scans, or X-rays
- Bone marrow sampling: Myeloma cells originate in the bone marrow, which makes bone marrow a logical place to start evaluating
- Urine test: Allows for the detection of proteins common with multiple myeloma
How to Treat Multiple Myeloma:
Sadly, medical researchers are yet to discover a cure for this type of cancer. The treatments available to multiple myeloma patients are mostly focused on the alleviation of pain and increasing life expectancy.
The American Cancer Society reported that victims who do not get treatment during the early stages often live for fewer than five years after the formation of the first myeloma cells. It’s common for patients to die within four years once this cancer starts to spread.
Doctors usually prescribe medicines such as morphine or fentanyl in order to alleviate bone pain. One thing that patients need to be aware of, however, is that these medicines are opiate-based and, therefore, highly addictive. Another issue is that patients often develop immunity to opioids over time, meaning that the dosage of these medicines often needs to be increased in order to be effective.
Fortunately, there are medicines available that work at increasing your life expectancy. These drugs aim to eliminate damaged myeloma cells by targeting the proteins contained within. Immunotherapy is another effective treatment for this purpose. By boosting your body’s natural immune system, immunotherapy allows your body to fight off myeloma cells more easily.
For patients who have already reached the later stages of this disease, chemotherapy is often used as a last resort. Because this form of treatment kills off healthy cells as well as the cancerous ones, the side effects can be incredibly harsh. While it may be difficult to find a donor, a bone marrow transplant is a much safer alternative to chemotherapy. A transplant involves replacing the damaged bone marrow with healthy bone marrow.
As you approach your senior years, it becomes imperative that you’re on the lookout for multiple myeloma signals. By catching this deadly disease early on, you can prevent it from progressing. It’s always a good idea to get regular checkups with your doctor as well as cancer tests.
Because new medical innovations are constantly being developed, you should make sure to find out about the latest research, which you can do online. Always remember to compare all of the treatment options available to you before choosing one so that you can make an informed decision.