Plasmacytoma is a type of cancer that forms in the plasma cells of blood. The abnormal plasma cells proliferate and collect in a single location – typically bone marrow or soft tissue – and form a plasmacytoma.
Doctors do not know why some patients develop plasmacytoma in either location. There are about 1,000 new cases of solitary plasmacytoma reported each year; as such, it is a fairly rare disease.
One key risk factor is age. Some 98% of patients are over 40, and 60% are male. The median age for plasmacytoma is 55. More patients are African American than Caucasian or Asian. However, radiation exposure from the atomic bombs in Japan caused five times the normal reported cancer rates. Genetics play a role. Jobs with exposure to chemicals also increase the risk.
The cause for plasmacytoma remains unknown. Over 50% of those with solitary plasmacytoma will develop multiple myeloma. Survival time for plasmacytoma of the bone is 10 years. However, plasmacytoma in the soft tissue is typically non-life threatening with radiation therapy.
In fact, the survival rate at 10 years is 70%. However, a prognosis will depend on the patientís age and health; the stage of the disease; and response to treatment.
Signs & Symptoms
There are often no signs or symptoms of cancer. And, plasmacytosisóan excess of plasma cells – can occur in reaction to drugs, rheumatoid arthritis, and cirrhosis of the liver; however, if bone lesions are also present, plasmacytoma is likely.
Common Signs & Symptoms
If the tumor is formed in the bone marrow, patients often feel pain there or suffer broken bones. Back pain and spinal cord compression are also traits of plasmacytoma of the bone. If the tumor is formed in soft tissue, it is often in the throat and sinuses and causes pain in these areas. This can also materialize as swelling that continues to enlarge over time.
Other Signs & Symptoms
- Loss of appetite
- Compromised immune system
- Compression of nerve roots in the spine
- Renal failure
Diagnosis & Staging
A diagnosis of plasmacytoma must be made after a series of thorough examinations, to rule out multiple myeloma.
Tests typically include a general physical exam, a review of personal and family medical histories, blood tests, urine tests, X-rays, and a biopsy. If a patient exhibits symptoms of plasmacytoma, a doctor is likely to take a bone X-ray. Clear (lytic) areas are an indicator of bone destroyed by a tumor. The only way to be certain, however, is a bone marrow biopsy.
Stages of Plasmacytoma
With the patientís medical history and physical examination, a doctor can assess the patient’s stage of the disease. This will aid in learning the size of the tumor, if it has spread, and where the tumor is.
There are two stages of plasmacytoma: isolated plasmacytoma of the bone (or plasmacytoma of the skeletal system, SBP) and extramedullary plasmacytoma (EMP). In the former, only one tumor is found; less than five percent of the bone marrow is made up of plasma cells; and no other signs of cancer are found. Isolated plasmacytoma of the bone often develops into multiple myeloma. In the latter, one plasmacytoma is found in the soft tissue only.
Common Treatment Options
Treatment for plasmacytoma are typically: radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery. Radiation therapy is standard and highly successful for isolated plasmacytoma of the bone. Chemotherapy after radiation therapy does not seem to aid in survival. However, for extramedullary plasmacytoma, treatment is typically radiation for the tumor and lymph nodes or surgery with radiation therapy.