Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer where abnormal plasma cells are produced at a rapid rate in the bone marrow. The disease can also be referred to as plasma cell myeloma or Kahler’s disease. In multiple myeloma, a large number of plasma cells form masses, or tumors, within the affected person’s bones — particularly in the bone marrow. Bone lesions then occur in the bone marrow as a result. Additionally, the production of normal blood cells may lower significantly in someone who has multiple myeloma. Let’s look at the average life expectancy of multiple myeloma patients.
The Prognosis of Multiple Myeloma
A prognosis is an opinion given by a medical professional regarding the patient’s chances of surviving an illness as well as the chances of the illness recurring — should it recur. During the prognosis, the patient can also learn more about the specifics of what they might go through as the disease progresses.
A prognosis is typically given after considering the factors listed below:
- How much the cancer has spread or progressed. In the case of multiple myeloma, as well as other types of cancers, the medical professional will consider what stage of the disease the patient is in. Specifically, the medical professional will look at the multiple myeloma grade.
- How old the patient is.
- How healthy the patient is, in general.
- How well the patient is responding to treatment.
These factors will vary depending on the patient. As such, each patient’s prognosis will be different.
Life Expectancy of People with Multiple Myeloma
Life expectancy is typically dependent on the factors in which the patient’s prognosis is based on. It also depends on whether or not a certain immunoglobulin is in the patient’s blood, whether or not the patient is experiencing kidney dysfunction, and how the patient responded to initial treatment.
On average, however, life expectancy is around 5.1 years if the patient has been diagnosed with stage I multiple myeloma. If the patient is diagnosed with stage II multiple myeloma, the average life expectancy is about 3 to 4 years. At stage III, the average life expectancy is about 2 years. These numbers are assuming one has received treatment for multiple myeloma. Without treatment, the survival rate of those with multiple myeloma decreases significantly. Around 15% of those diagnosed with the disease who did not receive treatment died within 6 months.
Different Types of Multiple Myeloma
There are two types of multiple myeloma: inactive or active. Those diagnosed with the active type of multiple myeloma will need to be treated immediately. It should be noted that there is an exception: even though no outwards symptoms are shown in either stage I or stage II multiple myeloma, they are still considered to be the active type of multiple myeloma.
The inactive type of multiple myeloma is asymptomatic, meaning that no symptoms of the disease are shown in those who have this type of multiple myeloma. There are multiple subtypes within the inactive type of multiple myeloma, which is listed below.
- Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance (MGUS)
This health condition is characterized by an abnormal amount of monoclonal protein in the blood. The condition is largely harmless to the person who has it and so there are typically no health complications that can result in MGUS. However, there is about a 1% chance of the MGUS progressing into active multiple myeloma.
- Smoldering Myeloma
This type of myeloma grows slowly. Smoldering myeloma is a cancer that is asymptomatic that could result in an active type of multiple myeloma after a period of time. In this condition, only a few white blood cells are affected and produce an excessive amount of monoclonal protein. The progression of this disease into active multiple myeloma is dependent on plasma cell levels in the bone marrow and the amount of M protein in serum.
Those with smoldering myeloma who has less than 10% of plasma cells in the bone marrow and more than 30 g/dL of M protein in serum has an average of 19 years before the condition reaches active myeloma. Those with more than 10% of plasma cells in the bone marrow and more than 30 g/dL of M protein in serum has an average of 2 years before the condition reaches active myeloma.
There is also the possibility that the smoldering myeloma never reach active multiple myeloma.
- Indolent Myeloma
This is a more stable and less severe form of myeloma where the average life expectancy is about 10 years with treatment. Without treatment, however, average life expectancy decreases significantly to 6 months. During stage I of this type of myeloma, average life expectancy is around 62 months. Those with stage II of indolent myeloma have an average life expectancy of around 44 months and those with stage III has an average life expectancy of around 29 months.
Thanks to the continued advancement of medicine and technology, a life expectancy of all kinds of cancers are improving. Additionally, good palliative care, as well as a holistic treatment approach, can help significantly in improving the patient’s day-to-day life.
It is important to note that life expectancy varies greatly from one patient to another. The numbers used in this article is just an average and not anyone’s exact life expectancy.
Featured Image: Depositphotos/© alexraths