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What is multiple myeloma? - Rep. Scalise says he's been diagnosed with "very treatable" cancer

The house majority leader says he has been diagnosed with a type of cancer called multiple myeloma.

NEW ORLEANS — House Majority Leader, Congressman Steve Scalise, announced that he is undergoing treatment for a type of cancer called multiple myeloma.

He said he is grateful that it was caught early and is treatable, and he will tackle this with the same strength as he has past challenges.

Scalise wrote he had not been not feeling well for a week, so he took blood tests. 

Fellow elected officials offered him well wishes over his cancer diagnosis. 

"We know that Steve doesn't back down from a challenge. His toughness, his faith, and the love of his family will carry him through this," said Gov. John Bel Edwards. 

St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper also stated he knows faith and toughness will guide him through. U.S. Senator, Dr. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, said Scalise will be an inspiration of survival, again.

“I have no doubt with Steve’s attitude, with the support of his family, with the prayers of so many, and with modern health care, he is going to recover,” said Senator Cassidy.

So, what is multiple myeloma? LSU Health hematologist, oncologist Dr. Suki Subbiah said it's not leukemia, which is blood cancer, and it’s not lymphoma. It is a cancer of one of the immune system cells, the plasma cells, in the bone marrow.

“Plasma cells, their main function is to produce antibodies, which help fight off certain infections that the body has already seen in the past,” Dr. Subbiah explained.  

Symptoms of multiple myeloma include:

-Bone pain

-Numbness, tingling in the nerves of the hands, and feet

-Weight loss

-Decreased appetite

-Fatigue, lack of energy

-Low white blood cells

-Lingering infections

“It's actually not very common. It's one of our less common cancers. Under 2% of all cancer diagnoses are multiple myeloma,” she said.

The cancer is considered a chronic condition. There is no cure, but there are pills, I.V.s and injections that can keep putting a person back into remission. 

“Multiple myeloma has been one of those cancers that has had a lot of new treatments come out over the last five years, and so it is a very, very treatable cancer,” Dr. Subbiah said.

For most patients, the cause is unknown. The gunshots that Scalise survived six years ago during a domestic terrorist shooting at a Virginia baseball field are not considered a risk factor. The doctor says people can do their normal routines during treatment, because there are few side effects. 

Scalise wrote he would do just that, return to Washington, D.C., and continue his work.

Scalise did not say what stage the cancer is in, but the doctor said she has seen patients with a higher stage go on to have long remissions.

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