Myeloma is a cancer that affects the plasma cells of the bone marrow. This rare and complex disease replaces healthy bone marrow with malignant plasma cells (myeloma cells), often causing widespread development of lesions and destruction of bone. Myeloma also prevents the bone marrow from forming cells that are important to the immune system, leaving patients vulnerable to infection and disease.
Lesions occur most commonly in the bones of the spinal column. Most myeloma patients experience pain, especially in the back and the ribs. More often than not, back pain and generalized weakness are what bring many undiagnosed myeloma patients to the doctor in the first place. Sudden severe back pain can indicate that the vertebral body of a vertebra has fractured or collapsed. Fractures of the bones of the spinal column are called vertebral compression fractures (VCFs) or simply, spinal fractures. Treatments to alleviate the pain associated with VCFs range from over-the-counter medications to major open spine surgery. Minimally invasive surgical techniques, like balloon kyphoplasty, fall in the middle of these treatment options.
Although it is not yet possible to cure myeloma, it is possible to improve the quality of life for patients. With this booklet, you will be better able to discuss your condition with your physician and formulate a treatment plan that’s best for you.