Multiple myeloma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia are both types of blood cancer that affect the white blood cells. However, important differences exist between these conditions. These differences relate to the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of the cancers, as well as the outlook for people living with them.
Multiple myeloma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) are cancers of the white blood cells. In a person with CLL, the body produces excessive numbers of abnormal B cells. Multiple myeloma begins in a person’s plasma cells. These are a type of B cell that produces antibodies.
It is very unusual for someone to have multiple myeloma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia at the same time, but this can happen.
This article will compare the causes, symptoms, diagnoses, and treatment of these conditions, as well as the outlook for people living with them. It will also discuss whether multiple myeloma can turn into CLL and the possibility of having both conditions at once.
Multiple myeloma causes
Multiple myeloma involves genetic mutations, but what causes those mutations is unknown. There is nonetheless some evidence that risk factors for multiple myeloma include:
- radiation exposure
- exposure to insecticides or organic solvents
- alcohol consumption
- radiation exposure
- tobacco smoking
- exposure to benzene, although more research is necessary to confirm this
A person’s risk of developing CLL is five to seven times higher if they have a parent or sibling with the condition. For people with multiple myeloma, this risk is lower. They are four times as likely to develop the condition if they have a first degree relative who has it.
However, while multiple myeloma
The two conditions also have many symptoms in common.
Why are the symptoms so similar?
Multiple myeloma and CLL both begin in the bone marrow. They cause B cells to grow excessively, which disrupts the function of other, healthy blood cells.
Bones and low blood count
- painful bones
- weak bones
Through their effects on the bone marrow, multiple myeloma and CLL can also lead to a low blood count, which may result in:
- shortness of breath
- reduced resistance to infection
- excessive bleeding
Calcium in the bloodstream
Additional symptoms of
- abdominal pain
- extreme thirst
- kidney problems
- muscle aches
- shortness of breath
- leg swelling
- kidney failure
- electrolyte disturbances
Multiple myeloma diagnosis
According to the
- blood tests have revealed high blood calcium, anemia, or an unbalanced concentration of proteins called light chains
- tests have identified poor kidney function
- imaging tests have revealed holes in the bones
- plasma cells make up more than 60% of the bone marrow
- blood contains too many lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell
- presence of CLL cells in the bone marrow
- evidence of CLL-causing genetic mutations, such as chromosomal changes
- cancer cells in the lymph nodes
Many treatment options exist for both multiple myeloma and CLL. The specific details will vary from person to person depending on the severity of their condition and the ability of their body to handle the potentially aggressive cancer treatments.
A person with either multiple myeloma or CLL may take years to start showing symptoms.
Stem cell transplant
A stem cell transplant can be a useful form of treatment for
Stem cells can also recognize that the cancerous cells are foreign and attack them.
Other common treatment options
With any condition, many factors can determine a person’s outlook. Some of these, such as an individual’s responsiveness to treatment, will vary greatly. Others, including the effects of a condition on someone’s mental health, can be hard to measure.
One important and useful outlook metric is the 5-year relative survival rate. This metric shows the percentage chance of a person with a particular condition being alive 5 years after receiving the diagnosis compared with someone without the condition.
Scientists are making significant medical advances that are improving the outlooks for people with these conditions.
This overlap means that some of the genetic processes that cause multiple myeloma can lead to CLL and vice versa. However, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that either condition can turn into the other.
It is indeed possible for an individual to have multiple myeloma and CLL at the same time. However, scientists believe that this is extremely rare, with only about
CLL and multiple myeloma are both forms of blood cancer. However, they affect the white blood cells in different ways.
Due to their similarities, CLL and multiple myeloma can cause some of the same symptoms. People may undergo similar diagnostic tests for each, and some of the treatment options are the same. However, key differences include the outlook for people with these conditions and the extent to which genetics plays a role in the likelihood of developing them.