Every year more than 1.3 million Americans will be living with, or be in remission from, a blood cancer.
Multiple myeloma, one of three main blood cancers (with leukemia and lymphoma), is a cancer of plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cells. When these cells form naturally in bone marrow, they produce antibodies, playing a key role in keeping the immune system strong enough to ward off most diseases.
When plasma cells mutate because of the cancer, they produce an abnormal protein known as the M protein. This overabundance of the M protein can severely affect different organs in the body.
“Multiple myeloma can affect our bones, bone marrow, kidneys and the nervous system, among others,” says John Conti, M.D., co-medical director of the cancer program at Hackensack Meridian Mountainside Medical Center.
“The M protein and the abnormal plasma cells can generate bone pain or cause bones to break more easily,” says Dr. Conti. “Together with the usual symptoms of cancer – fatigue, weakness and weight loss – multiple myeloma can severely impact our health.”
Multiple myeloma can be treated in the following ways, though a complete cure has not yet been found:
> Injection of antibodies
> Targeted therapies
> Bone marrow or stem cell transplant
Patients with multiple myeloma have a more favorable prognosis than other cancers because these treatments can often put the cancer into remission. “The outlook for multiple myeloma has improved because a number of new novel treatments have become available in the past five years – all of which are available at Mountainside,” says Dr. Conti.
Cancer patients at Mountainside Medical Center have another advantage: the medical center’s affiliation with John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center. Patients can experience both the convenience and warmth of their community hospital and access to the tertiary care center expertise of the specialized myeloma division at John Theurer Cancer Center.
September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month. Join Dr. Conti on Facebook on Monday, September 27, 2:30 p.m. as he answers common questions about blood cancers. Dr. Conti will take questions from the audience, or you may submit your questions in advance. Visit facebook.com/Mountainsidemedicalcenter for more.
If you need a doctor, visit mountainsidehosp.com/find-physician or call 1-888-973-4MSH.