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What is multiple myeloma? Tom Brokaw announced he has cancer

Tom Brokaw was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer affecting blood cells in the bone marrow, in August 2013 at the Mayo Clinic. Mr. Brokaw and his physicians are "very encouraged with his progress." Brokaw has continued to work for NBC throughout his treatments.

About multiple myeloma and Tom Brokaw.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Mr. Brokaw, 74, is television journalist and author best known as the anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News from 1982 to 2004. He is the author of The Greatest Generation (1998) and other books and the recipient of numerous awards and honors. He is the only person to host all three major NBC News programs: The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, and, briefly, Meet. He now serves as a Special Correspondent for NBC News and works on documentaries for other outlets. source

This is the second time in as many months that this Examiner has heard of someone with multiple myeloma so let’s take a look at what this cancer is and the treatment and prognosis. This cancer varies from person to person. Early in the disease, the condition may not cause any symptoms, called smoldering multiple myeloma. As the disease progresses, it's likely that you'll experience at least one of the four major problems common to multiple myeloma, which include a high level of calcium in your blood, kidney (renal) failure anemia-related fatigue, bone damage and fractures, repeated infections — such as pneumonia, sinusitis, bladder or kidney infections, skin infections, and shingles, weakness, weight loss and/or numbness in your legs.

In the case of my friend, she was very thirsty and tired. Tests ruled out diabetes and eventually the diagnosis of multiple myeloma was given to her.

The exact cause isn't known; however, doctors do know that multiple myeloma begins with one abnormal plasma cell in your bone marrow — the soft, blood-producing tissue that fills in the center of most of your bones. This abnormal cell then starts to multiply.

Risk factors include being in your mid-60s and being obese, black, and a man. My friend is a thin, white woman who was 62 at the time of diagnosis. Tom Brokaw is a fit, white male in his 70s.

Though there's no cure for multiple myeloma, with good treatment results you can usually return to near-normal activity. You may wish to consider approved clinical trials as an option. This friend is in a trial at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, MA.

Standard treatment options include: Bortezomib (Velcade), which was the first approved drug in a new class of medications called proteasome inhibitors and other drugs. Chemotherapy involves using medicines — taken orally as a pill or given through an intravenous (IV) injection — to kill myeloma cells. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone and dexamethasone, have been used for decades to treat multiple myeloma. They are typically given in pill form.

Stem cell transplantation involves using high-dose chemotherapy along with transfusion of previously collected immature blood cells (stem cells) to replace diseased or damaged marrow. The stem cells can come from you or from a donor, and they may be from either blood or bone marrow. Radiation therapy uses high-energy penetrating waves to damage myeloma cells and stop their growth.

In a statement, published on, Brokaw said he and physicians at the Mayo Clinic were very encouraged with his progress. "With the exceptional support of my family, medical team and friends, I am very optimistic about the future and look forward to continuing my life, my work and adventures still to come," Brokaw wrote. source

Prognosis has been purposely left out of this article because

1. It varies person to person.

2. It has changed over the years.

Let's leave it that the life-span of the person with this diagnosis has increased markedly over the years.

Read the entire article at the source of the quotes here.

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