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Multiple Myeloma: What You Should Know

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Visit Levine Cancer Institute to learn more about our program, and the new, state-of-the-art blood and marrow transplant unit which opened in January.

Tom Brokaw, former NBC Nightly News anchor, announced on Tuesday that he has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, raising questions regarding the nature and severity of the condition, and the different treatment options available.

Multiple myeloma is a relatively uncommon type of cancer, with only 24,000 new cases diagnosed each year, according to the American Cancer Society. However, it is still important to understand what it means if you, or someone you love, is diagnosed:

What is Multiple Myeloma?

  • Multiple Myeloma is a cancer of the blood, which begins in the plasma cells. Plasma cells are a type of white blood cells that helps the body fight infection.
  • When someone develops multiple myeloma, an abnormal amount of plasma cells begins to build up in their bone marrow, which can interfere with red blood cell production and result in damage to the immune system.

What are the Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma?

  • Common symptoms of multiple myeloma include: frequent need to urinate, increased thirst, fatigue, bone pain and unexplained weight loss.
  • In the early stages of multiple myeloma, symptoms usually do not occur, and a diagnosis is incidentally made at a routine blood test or check-up.

How is Multiple Myeloma Treated?

  • While multiple myeloma is incurable, it is treatable through the administration of various types of drugs, depending on the stage of the cancer when it is diagnosed.
  • For patients under age 65, high-dose chemotherapy along with stem cell transplantation is often preferred treatment method.
  • Recently, new classes of drugs have been developed that improve the median life expectancy for those diagnosed with multiple myeloma.

Dr. Saad Usmani
Carolinas HealthCare System’s Levine Cancer Institute is expanding its hematologic oncology and blood disorders program, staffed by nationally renowned experts who sub-specialize in treating aggressive types of blood cancers, including multiple myeloma.

Dr. Saad Usmani, director of the plasma cell disorders program, came to the Institute from the University of Arkansas Cancer Center in 2013, and specializes in diagnosing and treating multiple myeloma.