Multiple Myeloma awareness red ribbon
Cancer Care

Raising Awareness for Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that originates in the plasma cells. These cells play a critical role in the immune system because they produce antibodies. According to Bayhealth Cancer Institute Medical Director Rishi Sawhney, MD, raising awareness for multiple myeloma is important because it can help increase early detection and improve long-term outcomes for those who have it. Educating patients and the community about the risk factors, signs and symptoms, and methods for diagnosing multiple myeloma is one of the best ways to help raise awareness.

Dr. Sawhney says people who are over age 60, are male, or are African American are at increased risk for multiple myeloma. A family history and exposure to environmental toxins including radiation, pesticides, and benzene are other risk factors.

“Signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma are nonspecific because they can be associated with other conditions,” explained Dr. Sawhney. “They include fatigue, infections, bone pain, low blood counts, high calcium levels, kidney injury, and lytic bone lesions. In more advanced stages the symptoms can be more severe.”

In terms of diagnosing multiple myeloma, Dr. Sawhney says it’s based on the results of a few different tests and screening methods. One is identifying the presence of monoclonal protein via blood and urine tests. Another is taking bone X-rays to check for any lytic lesions. The third method is a bone marrow biopsy to look for abnormal plasma cells since they are the ones responsible for multiple myeloma.

“When it comes to multiple myeloma awareness, the most important message and takeaway is that patients and caregivers should have a working familiarity with presenting signs and symptoms, and if they see them, they should consider blood and urine tests to look for monoclonal protein,” said Dr. Sawhney. “There’s been a tremendous explosion of new drugs and promising therapies for multiple myeloma. So increasing awareness and early detection of the disease will provide patients with access to these treatments sooner and improve their long-term outcomes.”

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