Every year in the UK about 4800 people are diagnosed with the bone marrow cancer. This would mean about 13 people per day are diagnosed. Our bones contain within themselves a sponge like tissue that we know as the bone marrow which aids in production of blood cells within the body. The plasma cells encased within the bone marrow are one of the vital parts that constitute the immune system. It is these plasma cells that get affected by the cancer. Instead of forming a lump or a tumor in any other cancer cases, the bone marrow cancer usually progresses through expansion within the marrow itself. The cancerous cells can start formulating themselves anywhere within the marrows be it the pelvis, skull, spines or the rib cage.
Bone Marrow Cancer-Important Definitions
The cancer or growth of dead cells in the bone marrow is called bone marrow cancer or multiple myeloma. As the cancerous cells flood the bone marrow, it stops producing normal blood cells which leads to bleeding issues, high susceptibility to infections and anemia. The myeloma or the cancer also starts producing a particular type of antibody.
The bone marrow is a collection of soft tissues where blood cells are produced from the stem cells. The blood cells that are produced are further divided into red blood cells, white blood cells and plasma cells. The bone marrow makes billions of blood cells everyday.
Produced by the plasma cells, antibodies are proteins called immunoglobulins that help in fighting against bacteria and virus. The plasma cells produce several different types of antibodies that fight against several different infections.
These are a type of white blood cells produced by the bone marrow. They are the soldiers and help the body fight against any infection. They are responsible for building the body’s immunity to prevent attack by foreign organisms.
Bone Marrow Cancer- Detection and Diagnosis
Below are some symptoms that can lead to the detection and diagnosis of Bone Marrow Cancer.
- Low Level of White Blood Cell
During the bone marrow cancer period the production of the healthy white blood cells become restricted or limited. This would make combating viruses or bacterial infections very difficult which is why an infection at around this time may not easily fade away. The increase in the plasma cells inside your marrow also prevents enough platelets from producing which is why sudden bruising or abnormal rates of bleeding may persist. With the lessening of the red blood cells, fatigue, lethargy and breathlessness may be a common companion at this time.
- Bone Pain
If you are experiencing serious bone pain and are compelled to visit a doctor much like the 70% that do, chances are that you have contracted bone marrow cancer. The lower back area or the rib cage is usually the places the pain commonly occurs. The pain experienced is usually caused by the excess production of the plasma cells that accumulate in the marrow and ends up damaging the bone itself. The usual case is a bone fracture.
- Excessive Calcium in the Blood
If your bones are damaged the calcium instead of the bones is directly released into the blood stream. Excessive amount of calcium in the blood therefore may cause a condition called hypercalcaemia which tends to make your sickly, fatigued and thirsty quite often. Since your body at this time is trying to get rid of the excess calcium in the blood stream, you may experience frequent urination. If the symptoms are ignored or the condition worsens, drowsiness sets in sometimes in such a manner that one needs to fight to stay awake.
- Kidney Damage
If the kidneys are affected and is not working up to the point, the repercussion for this may be in the form of an inflammation in the ankles. Due to the over production of the plasma cells a spike is experienced in the levels of antibody proteins which in turn damage the kidney as it passes through your blood stream and into the urine. The doctoral terms for this antibody protein are known by the name Bence Jones which is named after the doctor who discovered it in the year 1850. This however is a symptom that would appear in the later stages of your cancer.
In this case, the blood become very thick due to the presence of high level of paraprotein in it. Other symptoms that accompany Hyperviscosity are nose bleeding, blurred vision, frequent headaches and fatigue.
In this condition, an abnormal protein called amyloid collects in various parts of the body and causes various symptoms like vomiting, nausea and fatigue.
How is Bone Marrow Cancer diagnosed?
A combination of physical examinations and lab tests are conducted to confirm the presence of Bone Marrow Cancer or Multiple Myeloma. The lab tests include:
- A blood test or urine test to detect the paraprotein
- KFT or Kidney Function Test
- Blood Calcium Test
- Chromosome and Gene testing of Myeloma cells
- Blood test to check beta-2 microglobulin and albumin
- CBC or Complete Blood Count
- Bone marrow test or Bone Marrow Biopsy
- X-rays of the bone
- An MRI or CT Scan
- Bone density test
These tests are conducted over a period of time to study the progress of the disease.
Bone marrow cancer- when does it require a doctor visit?
On experiencing the following symptoms, consult a doctor or seek medical help at once
- Sudden loss in weight
- Extreme unexplained tiredness that may last longer than two weeks
- Constant and stagnant bone ache, especially the ribs or the lower back
- Bladder or bowel control loss
- Excess thirst sensation accompanied by abundant and frequent urination
- Tingling or numb sensations in your limbs, be it upper or lower. Weakness too can set in
The symptoms mentioned above need not necessarily speak of a bone marrow cancer but in case you are experiencing them, it is best if you check up on the issues. The doctor would usually looks for internal bleeding, infections or tenderness in your bones as a form of diagnosis.
Bone Marrow Cancer- Causes and Sources
The exact source for the cause of this condition is not defined but according to the doctors it usually starts with one plasma cell going abnormal which causes it to irrationally multiply. However, cancer cells unlike the normal healthy cells don’t mature and die but they keep accumulating and expanding until it outruns the normal healthy cells count. Within the bone in the marrow, these abnormal cells usurp the red and white blood cells and the tiredness and weakness sets in rendering your body unfit for combat.
The cancer cells much like the healthy plasma cells tries to make antibodies too. But, the antibodies produced by the cancer cells are unfit for use so they keep storing themselves stirring up problems on the way like kidney damage and such.
Bone Marrow Cancer- Risks
The exact defined cause for the bone marrow cancer to appear is still not fixed or definitive. However, there are still some factors that may risk the encouragement of these cells while your body becomes more vulnerable owing to these triggers. Some of the risk factors are enlisted in the table below:
|Exposure to radiation||Atomic bomb exposures or low grade radiation exposure may be a trigger that causes the bone marrow cancer to formulate or set in. Anyone exposed to the above mentioned may risk the disease.|
|Exposure to chemicals||Chemicals used whilst the manufacture of rubber or the ones like asbestos, benzene or pesticides are harmful for your body. Exposure to these encourages your chances of contracting marrow cancer.|
|Family history||The bone marrow cancer at times can be family inherited.|
If you have a sibling or a parent in direct relation to you, the chances of you contracting the same increases by four times. However, this is often a rare case and not too common a factor.
If you have a history of suffering from a solitary plasmacytoma pertaining to the bone you are actually at a risk of contracting multiple myeloma.
|Factors linked to diseases||According to the American Cancer Society, obesity or excess weight on your body will increase your risk of contracting marrow cancer.|
|Lowering immunity||If you have just undergone an organ transplant and is currently on a medication course to get your immunity back up, chances are that you may risk exposing yourself to marrow cancer.|
HIV patients usually are at a higher risk.
|Similar other risk factors||The risk of bone marrow cancer ages with you and as you grow older the risk becomes more and more prominent. Usually one would find about 1% people under the age of 35 coming down with this disease, whereas people above the 65 age mark are usually seen at a higher risk.|
This condition usually prefers men than women most of the time.
The ethnicity of the person matter too. Even though the reason for it is not concrete, it is often noticed that African Americans are more tend to contract this disease as compared to Caucasian Americans.
Bone Marrow Cancer- Treatment and Cure
A concrete cure for bone marrow cancer is still not devised. However, with the right kind of treatments one can ease the symptoms, possibly reduce the pain or contain the complications that arrive. The treatment techniques can stabilize your disease and tone down the intensity of it.
- Targeted Therapy
This treatment usually deals with abnormalities in the cancerous plasma cells. The targeted drug treatment targets some of these cells and helps repair or save them. Bortezomib or Carfilzomib can prevent the substance action in myeloma cells that aids in protein break down. This action leads to the demise of the myeloma cells. The usual way is to inject it in your system through your arm veins.
- Biological Therapy
This particular treatment focuses on building up the immunity system to your body so that you can fight off the abnormal cancer cells. Lenalidomide, pomalidomide and thalidomide are some of the drugs that supports and build up your immunity system which allows your system to indentify, diagnose and attack the abnormal marrow cells. These medicated drugs come in pill forms.
In chemotherapy, the cancerous cells that are progressive in nature are eliminated immediately and this includes the myeloma cells as well. The technique can be implied either in a pill form or through injection to your veins. Before you move into the stem cell transplant, you may require a high dose of chemo.
- Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy uses energy beams much similar to X-rays which ends in damaging the myeloma cells thereby leading towards their eradication. They can also be used to shrink the size and functionality of the myeloma cells but only in certain area where the accumulation of The plasma cells have resulted in creation of a tumor causing pain and destruction of a bone.
- Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
- Ample amount of exercise and a healthy nutritional diet is all that is required for you to stay fit. This would also help you gather your energy level and protect your bones from fading easily. This may also partake in improving your mood.
- Adequate amount of rest is required too. Small naps or breaks during the day can help you recharge your energy and keep you on your feet.
- Seek assistance from support groups to get over a nasty habit or ask for help from anyone to reduce the pressure on your part. A good healthy mind would help you combat or prevent the disease in a more stable way.
- Stem Cell/Bone Marrow Transplantation
Using the stem cell or marrow transplantation you can replace the damaged or the rogue cells with healthy bone marrow. The video attached underneath would tell you more about the workings and types of transplantation’s that there is. It will also guide you as to choosing the right treatment technique along with elaborated details.