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Myeloma

Risk Factors, Screening and Diagnosis | Personalized Treatment | Additional Patient Support

Myeloma is a cancer of a type of white blood cells called plasma cells, found primarily in the bone marrow. Destroying normal bone marrow tissue, myeloma slows normal blood cell production. The cancerous cells produce an immunoglobulin protein, also known as an antibody. The production of other normal antibody proteins may be suppressed.

The experienced specialists at NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center combine the most advanced scientific knowledge and technology with a comprehensive approach to care. They create a program of personalized medicine for each individual diagnosed with myeloma. Drawing from the diverse experience of physicians, surgeons, nurses, researchers and a host of other highly trained healthcare professionals, the Kellogg Cancer Center team is dedicated to putting patients—and families—at the center of a healthcare experience that delivers compassionate, quality care.

Myeloma Risk Factors, Screening and Diagnosis

There are no known or identifiable risk factors for myeloma. The first symptom of myeloma may be bone pain. Patients may also be anemic, tire more easily and feel weakness. Recurrent infections or bone fractures may also be signs of myeloma.

No established screening exists for myeloma. Symptomatic patients may undergo a variety of pathology tests to establish to microanatomy (histology) of cells. Tests may include blood and urine tests, a bone marrow biopsy or sometimes tissue biopsies.

Once diagnosed, myeloma is staged using further blood tests, urine tests, bone marrow biopsy and aspirate, and CT scans and PET scans. The severity of the myeloma is determined by the stage, as well as other biologic markers such as evaluation of the chromosomes (cytogenetics) in the bone marrow sample.

Personalized Myeloma Treatment

There are a number of treatment options for myeloma. They may include the use of a variety of therapeutic strategies—from cytotoxic chemotherapy to molecularly targeted therapies—to achieve a multi-pronged approach. The goal of therapy is to move toward the absence of cancer detection to reach long-term “curable” remission.

Chemotherapy, including targeted chemotherapy, has led to sustained remissions in some patients. Often a multi-drug regimen is employed. Thalidomide and its derivatives, such as lenalidomide, have been found to be effective in the treatment of myeloma.

It is not uncommon for chemotherapy to be followed by stem cell reinfusion. For transplant eligible patients, we offer high-dose chemotherapy with peripheral stem cell re-infusion as a major component of their therapy. The Kellogg Cancer Center has an accredited program by The Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy for autologous stem cell transplantation.

In addition to personalized treatment, the multidisciplinary care team for patients undergoing high-dose chemotherapy meets regularly within the Blood Bank.  The team determines the best course of action for each patient, which can include stem cell reinfusions, the need to administer additional chemotherapy and other therapies.

Treatment of the pain associated with myeloma can include medications, radiation therapy, surgery and complementary pain management techniques. Certain drugs can halt the progression of bone lesions caused by the blood cancer. Radiation can be used to shrink existing bone lesions and relieve pain; surgery may be used to repair and relieve the pain from bone fractures.

Additional Patient Support

Kellogg Cancer Center’s unique services and resources assist patients and family members with a variety of challenges they may face from diagnosis, treatment and beyond. A wide array of support services are available to patients that include our integrative medicine services, financial advocacy and survivorship, to name a few.

For More Information

For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, please call 847.570.2112.