Carolinas HealthCare System

Levine Cancer Institute
Multiple Myeloma: The Basics
Read more about what Dr. Usmani and other experts from around the world consider to be the most important myeloma research developments in 2013.

Did you know that March is Myeloma Awareness Month? Multiple myeloma, also known as a cancer of the blood affecting multiple sites, affects nearly 24,000 people in the United States every year. While this type of cancer diagnosis is relatively uncommon, it is still important to understand what it means if you, or someone you love, is diagnosed.

What is Multiple Myeloma?

Multiple myeloma begins in the plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection. When a person experiences multiple myeloma, an abnormal amount of plasma cells begins to build up in their bone marrow, which can interfere with red blood cell production. This imbalance of white and red blood cell production results in a weakened and damaged immune system.

Symptoms

Some of the 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.

Treatment

Treatment for patients with multiple myeloma often includes 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 the preferred treatment method.

While multiple myeloma is considered incurable, it is treatable. More treatments are currently available than ever before, and are offered as part of Levine Cancer Institute’s expanding hematologic oncology and blood disorders program. 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.

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