DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Longtime NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw announced Tuesday that he has cancer, but doctors say his chances of beating it are good.
Brokaw has multiple myeloma, a cancer affecting blood cells in the bone marrow.
“A cancer or leukemia starts with the white cell count called plasma cells overpopulating. It can cause destruction of the bone,” said Dr. Burhan Yanes, Miami Valley Hospital.
Normally, healthy bone would show solid in an x-ray. A bone damaged by multiple myeloma is spongy, with holes.
“Then they could break. That’s the problem, you can break a bone, break your back and be paralyzed.”
The disorder can also cause severe anemia and kidney damage.
There is no cure, but treatment, Dr. Yanes says, can extend life for a decade or more.
“The standard treatment for anyone younger, less than age 65, we do chemo induction and after that we do high dose chemo and stem cell transplant.”
The aggressive transplant for an older person like the 74 year old Tom Brokaw is risky.
Dr. Yanes says treating anyone over the age of 70 with stem cell transplantation is “pushing the limit”.
The development of promising new drugs means multiple myeoloma has become a chronic, manageable disorder even though there is no cure.
Watch for symptoms that include back pain, fatigue, excessive thirst and loss of appetite.