• Shruti GOCHHWAL

Bone Marrow Cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment And Survival Rate

Bone marrow is the spongy material also called stem cells that are present at the core of your bones. Almost every blood cell in your body originates from the stem cells. When stem cells develop, they form varied blood cells like white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. All these cells help you to fight infections, transmit oxygen to different tissues in the organs and regulate bleeding from wounds.

The blood cells form according to the needs of your body. When they get old, they die and get substituted by fresh cells. However, in a person with leukaemia, these cells do not proliferate as they should in normal circumstances.

Bone marrow cancer begins in the stem cells. It may lead to greater than usual production of stem cells which then matures into any of the kinds of blood cells. As the number of particular blood cells increases, cancer gets worse and results in the formation of tumours. This is what bone marrow cancer is all about.

Bone Marrow Cancer – What Is It?

myeloma

An injection and a bone, Credit: Canva


How do you get bone marrow cancer? The plasma cells in your body enable your immune system to battle infections and diseases through the production of antibodies. However, myeloma or bone marrow cancer develops when there is an overproduction in the plasma cells. As their amount keeps increasing, your body’s ability to generate red blood cells and platelets decreases. It results in the person becoming anaemic and vulnerable to more infections.

Many people wonder, is bone marrow cancer painful? As the plasma cells continue to grow, they disrupt the bones of the person and cause much pain to him or her. For example, if the spinal bones are affected by cancer, the nerves can be subjected to pressure which can ultimately result in paralysis. So, this type of cancer is quite painful. A person is at risk of developing bone marrow cancer if

  1. They have someone in their family suffering from it

  2. The person is exposed to chemicals like heavy metals, herbicides, textiles, etc.

  3. And, The person is exposed to radiation therapy

  4. The person has a history of acute infections

What Are Bone Marrow Cancer Symptoms?

Bone marrow cancer symptoms

A man feeling pain in the neck, Credit: Canva


  1. Pain in the bone that is affected. In the initial stages, this pain may be experienced much more intensely only at night. It may also come about when that bone is used, for example, while walking. As cancer progresses, the pain will get worse.

  2. Swelling, or a feeling of a mass or lump in the affected area. For example, cancer in the neck bones will lead to the formation of a lump in the throat which will make it difficult to swallow or breathe.

  3. Bone weakening that makes the bones in your body extremely prone to fractures. The patient may experience severe pain in their bone which starts unexpectedly.

  4. Numbness, tingling sensation, and weakness is a symptom of cancer in spine bones.

  5. A loss of red blood cells may give you symptoms like tiredness and weakness.

  6. Due to fewer amounts of blood platelets, you can experience symptoms like bruising and bleeding.

  7. Lack of white blood cells will make you prone to developing infections frequently.

  8. Intense levels of thirst will be felt.

What Are the Various Bone Marrow Cancer Stages?

bone marrow cancer stages

A women with a doctor, Credit: Canva


Broadly, there are four stages of bone marrow cancer. They are:

  1. In stage 1, the cancer cells are still concentrated around the bone with the formation of a low-grade tumour. Here the cancer size is either less than 8 cm or larger than it. The larger size of the cancer is found in other areas of the affected bone.

  2. In stage 2, the cancer cells are again concentrated around the affected bone. However, as cancer has progressed they can be called high-grade. Here also the tumour is still lesser in size than 8 cm. However, a slight progression in this stage turns the tumour to become bigger than 8 cm.

  3. In stage 3, bone cancer still surrounds the same bone. However, they are called high-grade and have travelled to cover numerous places in the affected bone.

  4. In stage 4, this type of cancer has travelled to different areas of your body. It does not remain concentrated on the affected bone. The bone marrow cancer in this stage can be T or N. it means that the tumour may have grown to any amount of size and may have even spread to the lymph nodes.

Is Bone Marrow Cancer Curable?

bone marrow cancer cure

A women smiling, Credit: Canva


Bone marrow cancer treatment includes chemotherapy, radiation, and plasmapheresis which is a type of blood treatment. These treatments are required only by those individuals who feel the symptoms of bone marrow cancer much more severely. In other cases, patients undergo a different line of treatment called a stem cell or bone marrow transplant.

Bone marrow cancer never really goes. It cannot be said to be a curable disease. Everything depends on their symptoms. The symptoms may come and go. What has been observed is that there usually is a long span of time where patients do not experience any symptoms. However, it does not last forever as the symptoms almost always come back.

Apart from the treatment, age also plays a crucial role in helping people deal with this condition. Multiple myeloma can occur without symptoms and progress very slowly throughout the body. Your response to the treatment also matters. After the treatment, there are certain guidelines that patients need to follow such as the consumption of plenty of fluids for healthy kidney function. They will also have to become extra cautious to keep themselves protected from varied infections as cancer has adversely impacted their immune health.

What Is the Survival Rate of Bone Marrow Cancer?

survival rate

A women smiling, Credit: Canva


Almost 3,600 people in the United States alone of every age-group are at risk of being diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. The death rate from this disease can be attributed to being over 1000. Although this disease is not curable, there are certain factors that can increase the amount of an individual’s lifespan. No one can ascertain for sure how long a person with this disease will be able to live. There are certain factors though, that can impact your bone marrow cancer survival rate. These are:

  1. The present stage of your cancer

  2. Your fitness levels

  3. Any other treatment that you have undergone previously

Almost 85% of people survive for a period of one year after being diagnosed by this cancer. Only about 55% of people survive this cancer for a period of ten years after they have been diagnosed. Most commonly, the survival rate depends on whether cancer has travelled to different parts of your body or not. Usually, a person has a five year period with him or her after getting diagnosed with this cancer. However, this five year period is for those people who have been able to detect their cancer in the initial stages. If cancer has spread to other body parts, then the validity of this period significantly reduces.

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