During the last Cure Panel Broadcast featuring Dr. Gareth Morgan, he made a statement which was so enlightening. He said that major improvements in survival and life expectancy will only come if we can get early diagnosis and treat myeloma before it becomes too advanced or causes organ damage. He believes the fact that it takes 3 to 6 months, and more often 6 months, from first symptoms to diagnosis is a scandal. " To make real inroads in the myeloma we need to get it diagnosed early before we have organ involvement. We need to make family doctors and family practitioners more aware of the disease. They should do M spike and light chain tests on patients." He believes the future of Myeloma will be to get earlier diagnosis, safe treatments, chemo prevention strategy, regular screening for para protein, and early intervention. This is the future and should be what we are striving to achieve. The UK's NHS (National Health Service) data shows that late diagnosis and advanced disease result in 1 in 5 newly diagnosed die within 2 months of diagnosis. But with this knowledge, I ask why can't the future be now? Breast cancer and colon cancer screenings have become the standard of care and can Identify early disease before organ damage.
The logic is sound. For breast cancer, stages 0 and 1 have a 5 year survival rate of 98.5% and stage 4 is just 25%. For colon cancer, the 5 year survival for early stage disease is 89.8 percent vs.12.9% for late stage advanced disease. Estimated cost with and without insurance is hard to determine, but the average before insurance for a mammogram is around $450, and that of colorectal screening averages $1000. With insurance most of these costs will be covered. The cost of a test for myeloma, which would include the M spike and light chain tests, runs $355 for my tests at Mayo, and all costs are covered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
For all patients I have ever talked with, they all feel they had the disease for a long time prior to showing symptoms which sent them to a doctor. So like breast cancer and colorectal cancer, the only way to catch it early is to be tested. And for lack of a recommendation by the IMF, MMRF, LLS, or Medicare, I think all people over 55 years old should have the myeloma tests every 5 years. Early diagnosis will allow each person the time to become their own best advocate and find the myeloma specialist they want on their team, and how they want to have their disease treated. What you won't get is the big surprise of a collapse of the spine from advanced bone damage, or organ failure like end stage kidney failure, stroke, and heart disease, not to mention infections and uncontrolled bleeding. Check with your insurance company to find out if the tests are covered under your policy.
For those younger than 55, they too should be tested is they have any of the symptoms of myeloma. They include bone pain, bone breaks, excessive infections, fatigue, bleeding which is slow to stop, high blood pressure, confusion, or tingling in the hands and feet.
So until we have published guidelines, it will be the children and grandchildren who are computer savvy and will be able to recommend to father, mother, grandmother, or granddad to get the myeloma tests so they can continue to be the center of the family.
Good luck and may God Bless your Cancer Journey. For more information on multiple myeloma survival rates and treatments CLICK HERE and you can follow me on twitter at: https://twitter.com/grpetersen1
A fact on where your money is going, and few people ever really know!
33,561 auto deaths each year and we spend $24 billion($1500 per new car sold) on safety equipment or $715,115 per death
580,350 cancer deaths each year and the NCI funds $4.9 billion per year for research or $8,843 per death. Maybe we are underspending for cancer research and cure, ya think!