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Support For Multiple Myeloma Patients

8 June 2023CANSA, in partnership with the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation and the Department of Haematology at King Edward Vlll Hospital, is pleased to announce the initial successes of its Multiple Myeloma support programme in KwaZulu-Natal, ahead of World Blood Donor Day.

World Blood Donor Day (14 June) aims to raise global awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products for transfusion, and to thank voluntary blood donors who give to national health systems. Blood is vital for the treatment of all types of cancer patients.

“Treating the anaemia that often accompanies myeloma, is as important as chemotherapy for myeloma. It may allow patients to receive the full doses of chemotherapy, and to have a better quality of life,” says Dr Nadine Rapiti, Head of Department, Haematology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Academic Complex.

Multiple Myeloma is a cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell. Healthy plasma cells help fight infections by making antibodies that recognise and attack germs. Cancerous plasma cells accumulate in the bone marrow and crowd out healthy blood cells. Rather than produce helpful antibodies, the cancer cells produce abnormal proteins that can cause complications, including anaemia, fractures and kidney problems.

Although not one of the top cancers in South Africa, the National Cancer Registry (2019) provides data showing that there is a significant number of myeloma cases, in patients aged between 40 and 80 years old, across all genders and races.

The programme was developed to provide patients, affected by multiple myeloma, with support during their cancer journey, and help alleviate associated psychosocial concerns that may arise. It focuses on providing social support, accommodation, transport, meals, and care for Multiple Myeloma patients and patients diagnosed with haematological cancers at CANSA’s Mkhuhla Care Home. Further, CANSA supports Multiple Myeloma patients and their loved ones through various psychosocial support programmes and educates patients and caregivers.

Lorraine Govender, CANSA’s National Manager: Health Promotion says, “This grant-funded programme started in April 2022, working in partnership with Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, Department of Haematology at King Edward Vlll Hospital, and patients affected by haematological cancers from surrounding public sector patients in the Durban region.”

To date, the programme has provided services to 252 haematological cancer patients who stayed at CANSA Mkhuhla Care Home and delivered psychosocial support to 571 patients who were at Mkhuhla Care home and attended the Multiple Myeloma Clinic at King Edward VIII hospital. The Multiple Myeloma programme does not only focus its efforts on just Mkhuhla Care Home, but also the CANSA Eikehof Care Home in Cape Town, where 961 patients were accommodated.

CANSA further carries out regular follow up Tele counselling sessions with patients and their loved ones or caregivers and to date, 103 patients have received free counselling. The Multiple Myeloma programme seeks to ensure that patients have a worry-free cancer journey and, where possible, provides assistive devices such as wheelchairs and crutches to patients in need. A total of 220 patients and caregivers have been educated through various resources and materials such as dietary tips and pain management guides and an infographic (developed by Blood SA) to help educate the public, patients and their caregivers about the signs and symptoms of Multiple Myeloma.

Govender adds, “CANSA and the Department of Haematology / King Edward Vlll Hospital, also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to continue with services at the Multiple Myeloma outpatient clinic and established a support group at the hospital. This is a milestone for CANSA since this will be the first in-hospital Multiple Myeloma support group.”

Myeloma may not cause any symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Occasionally, it’s diagnosed following a routine blood test before any symptoms develop. When symptoms do occur, they are mostly caused by a build-up of abnormal plasma cells in the bone marrow, and by the presence of the abnormal paraprotein in the blood.

The most common symptom of myeloma is bone pain. About 70% of people complain of lower back pain, or pain in their ribs. Other symptoms may include tiredness and fatigue due to a lack of red blood cells (anaemia) and kidney problems, which are caused by the paraproteins produced by the myeloma cells. They can also cause tiredness and anaemia.  Additional symptoms are repeated infections, particularly chest infections, due to a shortage of normal antibodies; loss of appetite, feeling sick, constipation, excessive thirst, depression, and drowsiness, which are caused by too much calcium in the blood.

“If a person has any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Many of these symptoms can also occur in other conditions, and most people with these symptoms will not have Multiple Myeloma,” concluded Govender.

(For more information, please contact Lucy Balona, Head: Marketing and Communication at CANSA at email lbalona@cansa.org.za. Call 011 616 7662 or mobile 082 459 5230.)

CANSA offers a unique integrated service to the public and to all people affected by cancer. CANSA is a leading role-player in cancer research and the scientific findings and knowledge gained from our research are used to realign our health programmes, as well as strengthen our watchdog role to the greater benefit of the public. Our health programmes comprise health and education campaigns; CANSA Care Centres that offer a wide range of care and support services to those affected by cancer; stoma and other clinical support; medical equipment hire, as well as a toll-free line to offer information and support. We offer a Tele Counselling service in seven languages free of charge. We also supply patient care and support in the form of 8 CANSA Care Homes in the main metropolitan areas for out-of-town cancer patients and CANSA-TLC lodging for parents and guardians of children undergoing cancer treatment.

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