Multiple Myeloma: What a Nurse Needs to Know
When it comes to multiple myeloma nursing, interventions are critical. How a nurse detects and treats a patient can have a big impact on his or her overall prognosis. For this reason, it is vital that nurses fully understand this disease, so they can diagnose and treat it as quickly as possible. Here is what a nurse needs to know about multiple myeloma.
What is Multiple Myeloma?
Multiple myeloma is, put simply, a cancer of plasma cells. It is often confused for bone cancer, multiple myeloma does not occur in the bones themselves, but in the bone marrow. Multiple myeloma is a relatively common form of cancer. According to Cancer.gov, it is predicted that 22,000 people will have been diagnosed with this debilitating disease by the year 2013 is over. Multiple myeloma occurs when the abnormal plasma cells build up in several different bones throughout the body.
What are the Risk Factors?
Knowing the risk factors of multiple myeloma is extremely important for nurses in order to aid in efficient diagnosis. While the cause of this disease is unknown, as with all cancers, there seems to be certain risk factors that appear more frequently in multiple myeloma patients. Most commonly, people diagnosed with the disease are over the age of 65. Almost all patients are at least older than 35. To find a patient under the age of 35 is truly rare.
When it comes to race, the highest incidence of the disease is found in African Americans, and the lowest incidence is in Asian Americans. The reason for this is unknown. Men also have a higher occurrence of the disease. In fact, in 2011, 11,400 men were diagnosed while only 9,100 women had the disease. Family history does appear to have an effect, as does a personal history of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS). Other environmental risk factors are still being studied and as of now are inconclusive.
What are the Symptoms?
Once again, knowing the symptoms of this disease is a truly important step for nurses. If they can properly recognize the symptoms, they can properly diagnose multiple myeloma. The most common symptoms of the disease include bone pain (most commonly in the back and ribs), a high occurrence of broken bones (specifically the small bones in the spine), being very thirsty, tired and weak, getting frequent infections, weight loss, frequent urination, and nausea or constipation. As with any disease, these symptoms can also be associated with other ailments, so it is important to always confirm any suspicions with the proper diagnostic tools.
How is the Disease Diagnosed?
When it comes to multiple myeloma nursing interventions, the diagnosis is undoubtedly the most important. If diagnosed early enough, the chances of fully catching the disease and stopping it are much greater. There are several ways for nurses to help diagnose this disease. Blood tests are often done to check for high levels of protein or calcium, or a low occurrence of white blood cells and platelets. Additionally, urine tests can be used to look for the Bence Jones protein. Another great option is to perform an x-ray to look for broken or thinning bones. While all of these methods can help give the nurse a clearer picture of the disease, the only true way to diagnose it is with a biopsy of the bone marrow.
What are the Treatment Options?
Once the disease is confirmed, it is up to the patient and doctor to determine the best course of action. First, the doctor and nurse will determine what stage the disease is in. In other words, how far along it is and if it has spread to the rest of the body. If the multiple myeloma is still in its early stages, the nurse may want to advise the patient to wait and watch the disease to see how it progresses. If it is further along, a combination of drug therapy and/or a stem cell transplant may be recommended.
If multiple myeloma is properly diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, many patients go on to live a long, healthy life. However, as with any cancer, if it is diagnosed too late, the success rates dramatically plummet. For this reason, multiple myeloma nursing interventions are vital for the overall care of their patients.