Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer which can affect different parts of the body.
It is usually slow to develop in the initial stages without any symptoms. However, it can rapidly develop into a more serious and even life threatening condition.
Based on American Cancer Society, the average length of survival rate by stage is: Stage I: 62 months; Stage II: 44 months; & Stage III: 29 months.
Why does it occur?
The root cause is not clear. However, what happens in the condition is fairly well known.
The plasma cells, which are a kind of white blood cells are affected in the condition. The normal healthy cells in the bone marrow are replaced by cancer cells.
These multiply much more rapidly in comparison. They gradually crowd the existing normal cells, ultimately replacing them.
The cancer cells, instead of producing beneficial antibodies which help to fight infections, produce an altered protein. This protein damages kidney cells and affects kidney function. Read about multiple myeloma causes.
Because the condition is a form of cancer, the life expectancy of patients is of concern. Although there are average estimates of life expectancy, it can vary widely from individual to individual.
Multiple Myeloma Life Expectancy
Here are some factors which can affect the life expectancy in a patient of multiple myeloma:
1. When it is diagnosed
Early diagnosis and treatment always improve the outcome and life expectancy. Multiple myeloma is classified into 3 stages.
The initial onset, also called the smoldering state is when bone damage has not yet started. It is a precursor to the first stage. Then there is stage I with small number of cancer cells. Stage II has more cancer cells while stage III has the most concentration of cancer cells in the bone marrow.
The outcome depends on how early the treatment is started.
2. Age of patient
Although the condition is more common in older people, sometimes it can also occur in younger people.
If it does, younger individuals have better life expectancy.
3. Nutrition of the patient
A better nutritional status and adequate rest can help cope with the situation better and improve life expectancy.
4. Other associated health problems
These are more common in the elderly and can adversely affect the outcome of life expectancy.
5. Treatment offered
There are a variety of treatments that can be used in multiple myeloma, either alone or in combination with another.
Some of the treatment with drugs target myeloma cells and improve body’s immune system. Other methods include chemotherapy, radiation and stem cell therapy.
The treatment method used can also affect your response to treatment and hence, your life expectancy.
6. Response to initial treatment
Some people respond better to treatment than others.
If there is complete remission after treatment, you can expect a more prolonged life.
7. Recurrence of myeloma
If recurrence happens after a period of remission, it is likely that response to treatment and life expectancy after the second bout may not be as good.
8. Occurrence of complications
Complications of multiple myelomas can be in the form of anemia, repeated infection, bone loss among others.
These can reduce the body’s ability to fight infections and further reduce life expectancy.
9. Kidney function
This is an indicator of how vicious or advanced the condition is. Poor kidney function indicates lower life expectancy.
10. Lab tests
Results on some of the laboratory tests can tell us about how long the patient is likely to survive. Higher albumin content, negative chromosomal abnormality, are indicators of good prognosis.
Although general indicators are available to tell us how long a patient might survive after starting treatment in multiple myeloma, these may not be applicable to all patients.
There can be other multiple factors that will influence and ultimately determine the life expectancy in patients suffering from multiple myeloma.
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