Myeloma is a type of blood cancer that affects plasma cells (a type of white blood cells which produce antibodies). When the normal production of antibodies is disrupted, the body’s immune system is weakened and the patient will be more vulnerable to infections.

Find out what myeloma is, its main types, risk factors, common symptoms, screening and diagnosis methods, and the various treatment options available.

What Is Myeloma?

Myeloma, also known as multiple myeloma, is a type of cancer that forms in plasma cells. Plasma cells are a type of white blood cell responsible for producing antibodies to help fight infection. When these plasma cells become cancerous, they can multiply uncontrollably, crowding out healthy blood cells in the bone marrow and impairing the body’s ability to fight infection.

What Are The Types?

  • Multiple Myeloma – This is the most common type, characterised by the proliferation of cancerous plasma cells in multiple areas of the bone marrow.
  • Smoldering Myeloma – In this type, abnormal plasma cells are present in the bone marrow but do not cause symptoms. However, there is a risk of progression to multiple myeloma over time.
  • Extramedullary Plasmacytoma – It is a rare type of plasma cell disorder characterised by the presence of abnormal plasma cells outside of the bone marrow and skeleton.

Myeloma In Singapore - Statistics

Approximately 100 people per year are diagnosed with multiple myeloma in Singapore. It is the second most common type of blood cancer in the country.

Who Is At Risk?

  • Individuals over the age of 55. The risk increases with age.
  • Men are slightly more likely to develop it than women.
  • Having a close relative with myeloma or certain other plasma cell disorders may increase the risk.

What Are The Symptoms?

The signs and symptoms may vary, but common ones include:

  • Pain in the bones (especially in the ribs and in the backbone).
  • Bone fracturing easily
    Kidney damage.
  • Infections that are persistent or recurring.
  • Weight loss that is unexplained.
  • Increased thirst, constipation, and mental confusion.
  • Breathlessness.
  • Persistent fatigue.

Are There Screening Tests?

Currently, there are no widely recommended screening tests in individuals without symptoms. Diagnosis typically occurs when symptoms arise or abnormalities are detected during routine blood tests or imaging studies.

How Is It Diagnosed?

Diagnosing often involves a combination of tests, including:

  • Physical examination.
  • Blood tests to measure levels of proteins (including M protein and other immunoglobulins (antibodies), albumin and beta-2-microglobulin), complete blood count to check the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.
  • Bone marrow biopsy to examine the presence of abnormal plasma cells.
  • Imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans to detect bone damage or lesions.

What Are The Treatment Options?

Treatment depends on various factors, including the stage of the disease, the patient’s overall health, and personal preferences. Common treatment options include:

  • Chemotherapy – Drugs to kill cancer cells or stop them from dividing.
  • Immunomodulatory Drugs – Medications that enhance the immune system’s ability to fight cancer.
  • Steroids – Drugs that help reduce inflammation and suppress the immune response.
  • Targeted Therapy – Drugs that specifically target cancer cells while minimising damage to healthy cells.

Consult A Doctor For Myeloma Diagnosis Or Treatment

Health365 has partnerships with trusted healthcare providers in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. Contact us for an introduction to a doctor for myeloma diagnosis or treatment.

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