In honor of the sixth annual Rare Disease Day, celebrated on Feb. 28, it is important to drive awareness about some rare cancers that are many times undiagnosed until the cancer has already spread. One particular cancer, multiple myeloma, often goes undiagnosed until the disease has spread to the bone.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells, a type of white blood cell found in the bone marrow. An estimated 70,000 people in the United States are currently living with multiple myeloma and once the disease has spread to the bone, patients will likely have a skeletal-related event in the back or ribs due to bone lesions. Patients may also have growths that form on the bone, which may cause difficulty walking. Additionally, patients’ bones may easily break or they may experience loss of appetite, nausea, thirst, fatigue, weakness or numbness.
“For people living with multiple myeloma, it’s extremely important to maintain their bone health,” says Dr. Doris Browne, oncologist and president and CEO of Browne and Associates, Inc.
Browne suggests the following tips and changes to a multiple myeloma patient’s diet, exercise routine and lifestyle modifications that can be made to help protect bone health. She advises it is very important to consult with a physician before engaging in any of these activities.
* Eat a well-balanced diet enriched with calcium and vitamin D. Low-fat dairy products, and foods and drinks with added calcium are good sources of calcium. Good sources of vitamin D include egg yolks, fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna, and milk with vitamin D. Some people may also need to consider taking nutritional supplements in order to get enough calcium and vitamin D in their diets. Fruits and vegetables also contribute other nutrients that are important for bone health.
* Get plenty of physical activity. Like muscles, bones become stronger with exercise. Good exercises for stronger bones are weight-bearing. Walking, climbing stairs and yoga are some good exercises to help build strong bones. Try to get 30 minutes of exercise each day. Remember, it is important to talk with your health care provider before starting physical activity.
* Live a healthy lifestyle. Avoid smoking, and, if you choose to drink alcohol, try not to drink too much.
* Prevent falls. Falling down can cause a bone to break, especially for someone with multiple myeloma. But most falls can be prevented. Check your home for dangers like loose rugs and poor lighting. Have your vision checked. Increase your balance and strength by participating in weight-bearing and strength-building activities.
Talk to your doctor about your bone health. If you are concerned about your bone health, go over your risk factors with your health care provider and ask which tests you may need.
To learn more, visit the To Stay in the Game, Maintain Your Frame website, www.MaintainYourFrame.com. To Stay in the Game, Maintain Your Frame is an educational program designed to educate the public about multiple myeloma, the importance of maintaining bone health, and the need for doctor-patient dialogue to be an active participant in their health. This program is a collaboration between Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation (“Novartis”) and the National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a coalition of 34,000 churches across the United States.