Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer of the bone marrow. It begins in plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cell that produce antibodies. These plasma cells are part of the body’s immune system, but when a person has multiple myeloma, the body produces too many of them. When this happens, these plasma cells clump together abnormally and form tumors. In turn, these tumors destroy the bone cells that surround them and they can also prevent the body from producing the other blood-forming cells it needs.
Specifically, myeloma cells collect in the bone marrow, which is the tissue inside the bones as well as in the solid parts of bones. The overabundance of myeloma cells commonly causes shortages in red blood cells, white blood cells, as well as blood platelets.
Like most cancers, no one knows exactly why multiple myeloma develops. However, there are certain risk factors that make a person more likely to develop it. Risk factors for multiple myeloma include:
- Being over age 65
- Being a male
- Having a family history of multiple myeloma
- Being African-American
Physicians who specialize in treating cancer, called oncologists, will choose from a variety of methods to diagnose multiple myeloma, such as X-rays or imaging tests, lab tests, and a bone marrow biopsy. If diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a patient might be treated with low-dose or high-dose chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or another therapy. Myeloma-related bone pain can often be managed with medications.
Myeloma is treatable by an orthopedic oncologist, or an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in cancers. At University Orthopedic Surgeons, our orthopedic oncologist, Dr. Anna Wallace, is dual-fellowship-trained in orthopedic trauma and orthopedic oncology, making her more than qualified to assess, diagnose, and treat this type of cancer.
Build Your Knowledge of Multiple Myeloma and Oncology
If you have recently been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, it can be helpful to build your knowledge about how it is treated. Here are some terms that can help you better understand multiple myeloma, bone disease, and related issues:
- Benign tumor: A tumor that is not cancerous.
- Bone cyst: A noncancerous type of fluid-filled tumor that is more common in children.
- Chondroblastoma: A bone tumor that develops in the cartilage.
- Enchondroma: A type of cartilage tumor that is benign. Enchondromas can sometimes transform into chondrosarcomas.
- Fibrous dysplasia: A condition where fibrous tissue begins to grow and replace normal bone and marrow, which weakens the bone.
- Malignant bone tumor: A cancerous tumor that occurs in a hard structure such as bone or cartilage versus a soft tissue such as muscle or blood vessels.
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma: A cancer that begins in the white blood cells.
- Oncology: The field of medicine focused on diagnosing cancer as well as cancer treatment. Oncologists are doctors who diagnose and treat cancer patients.
- Orthopedic oncology: Refers to the field of medicine focused on helping patients who have a sarcoma that has developed somewhere in the musculoskeletal region, such as the bones and cartilage, or soft tissues, such as the muscles.
- Osteochondroma: The most common noncancerous tumors of the bones.
- Osteosarcoma: The most common type of bone cancer. It typically develops from cells that grow bones, known as osteoblasts.
- Primary bone cancer: When a bone cancer develops in the bone first, like osteosarcoma, it is called a primary bone cancer.
- Sarcoma: An overall term for bone cancer or soft-tissue tumors that are malignant.
- Soft-tissue sarcoma: These are malignant soft-tissue tumors, meaning they develop in a soft tissue of the body, such as a muscle or blood vessel.
Exceptional Care at University Orthopedic Surgeons
Our years of experience and advanced training devoted to the care of orthopedic issues make us who we are, but our compassionate care of our patients is what makes us dedicated to you. Our orthopedic oncologist and her team at University Orthopedic Surgeons are here to improve the health and well-being of our community, treating patients dealing with the full range of bone diseases and conditions. They are also committed to staying up to date on new treatment advances so they can offer the very best to patients.
Dr. Anna Wallace and her orthopedic oncology team are fully equipped to treat the complete range of orthopedic cancers, tumors, and related tumor-like conditions, including multiple myeloma. They are supported by our entire team of highly experienced nurses and other clinical staff and backed by our state-of-the-art orthopedic facility.
Since we understand coping with myeloma and navigating your appointments and care can be challenging, we remain committed to providing you with the orthopedic oncology care you need to excel.