Among the non-common types of white blood cells in the bone marrow, plasma cells are counted. Their function is the production of antibodies that prevent the attack of the microbes of any disease you already have or against which you have been vaccinated.
Normally, plasma cells make up a small percentage of bone marrow cells, but in myeloma, one plasma cell is suffering from a cancerous change and begins to multiply slowly, but safely and uncontrollably.
In some cases, plasma cells occupy more than half of the bone marrow. This causes three serious consequences:
1. production of other blood cells in the bone marrow is disturbed;
2. the excessive number of plasma cells causes the increasing pressure in the bone marrow, which makes the surrounding bone fragile;
3. in the remaining normal plasma cells, the function of body protection from infection is disturbed.
The first symptom is increased susceptibility to infections, especially in the chest. Anemia can also occur. But, the most characteristic symptom of this disease is bone pain – especially in the vertebrae – due to the pressure of excessive plasma cells. Sometimes, because of that, the vertebrae break and fall apart, with acute pain. If several vertebrae are fractured, the spine will be permanently deformed and the patient will not be able to move. Sometimes the bone of arms or legs weakens so much that it is easy to break.
The myeloma is rare and appears only in one in 10,000 people. It mainly affects people over 50 and twice as much in men.
What to do?
If you have passed 50 and you feel pain in your bones, especially on your back, contact your doctor. Laboratory analysis of blood and urine samples and X-ray of skeleton will confirm the diagnosis and show what kind of bone it is.
A myeloma can rarely be cured, but treatment allows for a few more years of normal life. In early stages, the disease is usually treated with cytostatic tablets. Corticosteroid tablets are often given, too.
These treatments evenly destroy cancerous plasma cells in the bone marrow. At the same time it relieves the pain in the bones, so the damaged bone is hardened and healed.
Bone pain can also be alleviated by radiotherapy. If a bone fracture occurs, the treatment is first performed by radiotherapy and then in the usual manner. Anemia is treated with blood transfusions. Medication therapy usually lasts up to a year. Most patients remain relatively healthy for at least two years. Some people are recommended to lose weight for the sake of spinal stenosis. The condition of the patient is attentively monitored, and when the disease is returned, the same treatment is applied as before. This causes the disease to restart under control, but after some time the disease will stop responding to the medication and the patient will probably fall under the infection.