World Cancer Day Special: Early diagnosis and treatment help multiple myeloma patients survive better

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The incidence of multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer developed when the cancerous plasma cells in the blood grow out of control, is reportedly on the rise in the metro cities in India.
The symptoms, varying from low blood count or anaemia and chronic fatigue, severe back pain due to vertebral involvement, weak and fractured bones, prone to infections due to low immunity, kidney problems, high levels of calcium in the blood, pins and needles sensation, brain fog and dizziness, are often mistaken for other conditions and hence, are ignored until they turn serious. Many are known to consult their primary doctors several times before being referred to a Myeloma specialist.

Multiple myeloma causes the cancerous plasma cells to gather in the bone marrow and produce abnormal proteins instead of healthy antibodies, thus causing further complications to the body.

Dr. Ragesh Radhakrishnan Nair

Since it is difficult to diagnose the disorder in its early stages, the disease tends to progress easily and start causing complications in the various parts of the body, including kidneys, heart, nervous system, and blood stream. Hence, it is crucial to consult doctors and undergo routine blood tests if anyone complains of kidney disorders, fractured bones and spine, uncontrolled back pain to rule out myeloma.

Being diagnosed at an early stage tends to slow down the progress, reduce the effects of the symptoms, improve quality of life and have better outcome from the treatment received in comparison to delayed diagnosis and treatment.

Treatment for Multiple Myeloma, over the recent years, has made huge advancements with specific types of immunomodulatory, anti-myeloma therapy and other drugs gaining priority over chemotherapy, as they help improve the chances of survival better. Bone Marrow Transplant is the treatment of choice in patients who are eligible for the same. It must be kept in mind that myeloma, if detected on time, can be well-controlled with appropriate medical treatment. Needless to say, modern discoveries and great advances in myeloma treatment have made myeloma a treatable disease and with the help of these, we can control myeloma very well in majority of the patients.

(The writer is the director of blood diseases, bone marrow transplant & cancer immunotherapy at the Meitra Hospital, Kozhikode.)

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