BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Dr. Luciano Costa is the Director of UAB’s Multiple Myeloma program, which specializes in treating patients living with it.

“We see over 300 new patients a year with a diagnosis of multiple myeloma and we perform more than 20 transplants for patients with myeloma,” said Dr. Costa.

According to Dr. Costa, multiple myeloma forms when healthy plasma cells become abnormal and ultimately affects the body’s ability to make antibodies in order to fight infections.

“So, risk of infection, bone pain, fatigue and then kidney problems are sort of the hallmarks of multiple myeloma,” said Dr. William Dahut, the Chief Scientific Officer with the American Cancer Society.

Dr. Dahut said years of research have helped the advancement of treatment for the cancer despite it being incurable. According to Dr. Costa, the life span for patients diagnosed is approaching 10 years but can be longer.

“There are multiple drugs out there, multiple ways to treat multiple myeloma, and, so, it’s one of those diseases because of the clinical trials we made really great advancements,” said Dr. Dahut.

Doctors say it’s a very serious type of blood cancer and, just like other forms, an early diagnosis can be critical.

With U.S. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise speaking out about his diagnosis, health officials are taking the opportunity to talk about it.

“Having a cancer diagnosis is incredibly difficult and I think him talking about it brings awareness to it.” said Dr. Dahut.

Dr. Costa and Dr. Dahut said a blood test can determine a diagnosis.

Multiple myeloma typically affects people that are older, men and African Americans.