Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer that affects plasma cells. The disease is considered relatively rare, with an estimated 35,000 people in the U.S. diagnosed in 2021.
Over the years, multiple myeloma has taken the lives of numerous well-known individuals. Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Walmart founder Sam Walton died of the disease, as did actor Peter Boyle, best known for his role in “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Just a few days ago, on March 10, 2022, the disease claimed the life of Emilio Delgado, known to generations of children, parents, and grandparents as Sesame Street’s beloved Fix-It-Shop owner, Luis. He played the part for 45 years and proudly held the “record for the longest-running role for a Mexican-American in a TV series.”
WHAT IS MULTIPLE MYELOMA?
Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer that causes malignant plasma cells to accumulate in the bone marrow—that spongy tissue inside our bones where normal, infection-fighting blood cells grow. As these malignant cells multiply, they create antibodies called monoclonal proteins, or M proteins.
In time, M proteins crowd out and inhibit the production of healthy plasma cells until the bone marrow doesn’t have room to produce enough red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF MULTIPLE MYELOMA?
Multiple myeloma symptoms vary and may not be present in the early stages of the disease. If symptoms do surface, they often include:
- Bone pain, especially in the spine or chest
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Excessive thirst
- Mental fogginess or confusion
- Frequent infections
- Weakness or numbness of the legs
WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS FOR MULTIPLE MYELOMA?
Many people who develop this blood cancer have no known risk factors, but some things may increase your risk:
- Your age: As you age, your risk for multiple myeloma increases. Individuals 45 years and older are at an increased risk of developing the disease. Most people diagnosed with it are in their mid-60s.
- Your sex: Men develop the disease more frequently than women.
- Your race: Black people are twice as likely to develop multiple myeloma than people of other races.
- Your family history: In a small number of cases, individuals who develop multiple myeloma also have a parent or sibling with the disease.
- History of MGUS: Having a condition called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) increases your risk for multiple myeloma. That’s because this kind of blood cancer usually starts as MGUS.
Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing multiple myeloma symptoms or if you’re at an increased risk for this blood cancer. And if you’ve been diagnosed with the disease and would like a virtual second opinion from one of the best medical minds in the world, contact us. We have a five-day turnaround and walk you through every step of the process.
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