African Americans have a high rate for this blood cancer
Multiple myeloma is a cancer that forms in plasma cells that help you fight infections by making antibodies that recognize and attack germs. Multiple myeloma causes cancer cells to accumulate in the bone marrow, where they crowd out healthy blood cells. Rather than produce helpful antibodies, the cancer cells produce abnormal proteins that can cause kidney problems.
The American Cancer Society estimates that for 2015 there will be about 26,850 new cases of multiple myeloma and about 11,240 deaths from multiple myeloma.
The numbers are surprising. African Americans have the highest incidence, death rate, and shortest survival time for most cancers. In particular, they are almost twice as likely as Caucasian Americans to be diagnosed with and die from multiple myeloma. The reason is not known.
Just last week I had sat down and talked with Dr. Craig Cole, MD, University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan and multiple myeloma patient Cheryl Boyce, a My Multiple Myeloma Ambassador to help raise awareness of multiple myeloma within the African American community.
Just what is the reason that African Americans twice as likely to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma compared to Caucasian Americans?
“It’s not heredity not related to socioeconomic or occupational, obesity or alcohol intake “the different distribution among races isn’t clear. It’s likely that the risk factor is embedded deep into the Geno and the genes and the DNA that makes the races different,” commented Dr. Cole.
Dr. Cole explains “Unlike other cancer myeloma does not go to a specific organ other than the bones. The plasma cells or the myeloma cells are hidden in the bone marrow compartment and they can move to the bones. It can cause bone thinning in which can cause bone fractures. Unfortunately the disease cans increases the blood plasma in which can cause damage to the kidneys the bone marrow and people usually have changes in kidney function in their blood counts and they become anemic and tired and they can have bone pain because of bone fractures.”
Although some patients with multiple myeloma have no symptoms at all, some of the common symptoms include pain, which can be in any bone, but is most often in the back, the hips, and skull. High levels of blood calcium,. Kidney problems and infection.
Sharing her experience on multiple myeloma Cheryl commented “I was extremely tired, you work and you think “you’re just extremely tired from the work” But this tiredness is a very heavy dark tired that doesn’t respond to sleeping.” Cheryl was having bone pain and there was no reason that she could point to for the bone pain. She actually had gone to the doctor to get a prescription refill she had shared some of things that were going on and he did a blood test. The test revealed an elevation in the blood protein and from there Cheryl had received diagnoses of myeloma.
“When you have symptoms you go to a doctor and describe the symptoms so you can see whether there’s a problem so the intervention is as soon as possible. You have the best chance for a good outcome. We need to be advocates for ourselves we need to be really proactive with this disease and any other”, said Cheryl.
To find out more about multiple myeloma, you can go to the website http://mymultiplemyeloma.com/. The site has links to a lot of the other websites that are involved in myeloma research, education and patient empowerment.
Bio for Dr. Craig Cole
Dr. Craig Cole is a board certified hematologist at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Dr. Cole completed his undergraduate degree at Michigan State University and his doctoral degree at Ohio State University College of Medicine. He began his post-doctoral training in internal medicine and hematology/oncology at the University of Michigan Health System. He has had the opportunity to do post-fellowship laboratory research in the Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center of Medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. This opportunity then led to a staff lectureship at the University of Michigan concentrating primarily on clinical research in multiple myeloma.
Dr. Cole then became an attending hematologist at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse, Wisconsin for nine years. While in Wisconsin, he expanded his research interests to include multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, therapeutic apheresis and myelodysplasia; participating as the onsite primary investigator for more than 21 clinical trials. He has published and presented his research at the American Society of Hematology and the American Society for Apheresis national meetings. Dr. Cole served as affiliate faculty at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse before returning to the University of Michigan as an assistant professor in the division of hematology/oncology focusing in multiple myeloma and general hematology.
Bio for Cheryl Boyce
For years, Cheryl worked as a healthcare advocate, a job she loved. She had worked hard to create a positive family life for her husband and daughter. While packing for a trip, she needed a prescription refilled, and rather than calling in the refill, her doctor asked her to have blood work done. To Cheryl’s shock, the test results revealed multiple myeloma. She immediately thought of what she had to do to make sure her family would be okay without her, and would not drift apart if she were to die.
While listening to the radio one day, she heard a sermon about living that resonated with her; when she arrived home, she was ready to start looking at treatment options online. She found an oncologist she respected and trusted, and shortly after, she began her journey through treatment. Cheryl found a great source of support among her girlfriends, who rallied around her, and from her husband. She visualized her journey through treatment as getting on a train at the station, and arriving at her destination.
As a My Multiple Myeloma Ambassador, Cheryl hopes to encourage others to keep moving forward, and to pay attention, ask questions, and advocate for themselves.