Bone marrow cancer is not at all common but it is as deadly as other more known malignant diseases. Only constituting 1% of all diagnosed cancers, very few people heard of bone marrow cancer and understand it as well as other common diseases like breast or prostate cancer. The prevalence of this cancer is one person in every 100,000 which makes it very rare indeed. Some specific subtypes of bone marrow cancer can inflict very young children, as young as 4 years old. This makes this cancer downright scary. Contrary to popular belief that this type of cancer has very limited treatment options, the opposite is actually true. There are a lot of things that can be done to fight this cancer. Bone marrow cancer survival rate can be quite positive with some people living up to 7 years after diagnosis. Some children diagnosed with it can survive with it to adulthood. Bone marrow cancer prognosis depends on many variables so there is no single applicable set of figures for different cases.
Bone Marrow Cancer Symptoms
What Causes Bone Marrow Cancer?
What is bone marrow cancer and what causes it? What medical specialists know about this type of cancer is that bone marrow cells mutate and start producing abnormal plasma cells. This hampers the normal production of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Although there are no clear causes of bone marrow cancer, there are several risk factors worth considering for this disease:
- Age – people below 40 are rarely diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. However individuals over the age of 65 have higher cases of the disease.
- Race – myeloma is more common in people who are descendants of African and Caribbean races compared to American and European groups.
- Gender – for unknown reasons multiple myeloma is more common in males than in females
- Family history – people with a family history of bone marrow cancer has a higher risk of being diagnosed with the same disease themselves.
- Radiation – people who are exposed to high doses of radiation are more at risk of developing bone marrow cancer. This includes people who had radiation therapy in the past and those that work in nuclear power plants.
Types of Bone Marrow Cancer
Myeloma is classified by the type of immunoglobulin the mutated cells (myeloma cells) produce. Here are some of the types of multiple myeloma:
- lgG – this is the most common type of bone marrow cancer
- lgE – this is the least common type of bone marrow cancer
- Bence Jones Myeloma – this type of myeloma produces light chains only making it less aggressive compared to the other types of the disease
- Non-secretory myeloma – this type of cancer does not produce any immunoglobulin
Bone Marrow Cancer Treatment
Is bone marrow cancer curable? This is one of the most common questions among patients and their families. The sad reality is that this type of cancer is not curable. The good news is that it is very treatable with many effective treatment interventions.
Where does bone marrow cancer treatment start?
It starts with an effective diagnosis. Like other cancers, bone marrow cancer has better survival rates when detected and treated early. Here are the most common means for diagnosing the cancer:
- Serum protein electrophoresis and other related blood tests
- Bone marrow examination (biopsy)
- X-rays, CT Scans, and other diagnostic imaging for affected bones
- Urine protein electrophoresis
With diagnosis soundly done, accurate staging comes next for the refinement of the treatment approach. Different bone marrow cancer stages as in the case of stage 2 and stage 3 bone marrow cancer have different treatment approaches. Contrary to popular belief there is no stage 4 for bone marrow cancer. By addressing unique treatment requirements for each individual case, the cancer can be treated effectively. Here are some of the most common treatments for bone marrow cancer:
- Chemotherapy with stem cell therapy
- Bone marrow transplant
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapies