What is Multiple Myeloma? - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

What is Multiple Myeloma?

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He's covered everything from presidents to war zones, but Tom Brokaw's toughest assignment is just getting started. The longtime NBC Nightly News anchor revealed he is battling a blood cancer called Multiple Myeloma. Brokaw and his doctors are optimistic about his outcome but the disease is incurable.

Overnight, Brokaw has become the face of Multiple Myeloma. We know he's fighting cancer, but what exactly is this disease? Multiple Myeloma is cancer of the plasma cells in a person's bone marrow. Essentially something has triggered the body into creating too many abnormal plasma cells which interferes with healthy blood cell production. These abnormal plasma cells also don't produce antibodies so the immune system can't fight off infections; making this disease much like a leukemia or lymphoma. Treatment often requires chemotherapy to wipe out the abnormal cells and then a follow up with a bone marrow transplant but beyond that doctors have few long-term answers.  

"This disease is not curable as we know however it is very controllable now with the amount of medications that we have and there are many medications coming down the pipeline so it will help in controlling the disease further until eventually we find a cure for it." Said Dr. Ahmed Galal, a hematologist at Avera McKennan.

20,000 Americans are diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma each year, another 11,000 end up losing their fight. If any good comes out of Brokaw's Battle it is that more awareness will be brought to the disease and more funding for research projects. Big strides have been made, but until there's a cure there is still plenty more to be done.

"10 years ago it was expected 36 months survival at best, now we are talking about eight years and nine years so it's a huge difference in survival for this kind of fatal disease basically." Said Dr. Galal.

Multiple Myeloma is a rare diagnosis, only counting for one percent of all cancers. But it is able to be treated aggressively and effectively at both of our local hospitals.

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