Information for Patients
Also called: Plasma-cell myeloma
Multiple myeloma is a cancer that begins in plasma cells, a type of white blood cell. These cells are part of your immune system, which helps protect the body from germs and other harmful substances. In time, myeloma cells collect in the bone marrow and in the solid parts of bones.
No one knows the exact causes of multiple myeloma, but it is more common in older people and African Americans. It can run in families. Common symptoms may include
- Bone pain, often in the back or ribs
- Broken bones
- Weakness or fatigue
- Weight loss
- Frequent infections and fevers
- Feeling very thirsty
- Frequent urination
Doctors diagnose multiple myeloma using lab tests, imaging tests, and a bone marrow biopsy. Your treatment depends on how advanced the disease is and whether you have symptoms. If you have no symptoms, you may not need treatment right away. If you have symptoms, you may have chemotherapy, stem cell transplantation, radiation, or targeted therapy. Targeted therapy uses substances that attack cancer cells without harming normal cells.
NIH: National Cancer Institute
- Bence-Jones protein - quantitative (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Bone marrow transplant (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Multiple myeloma (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Protein electrophoresis - serum (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Serum globulin electrophoresis (Medical Encyclopedia)
Multiple myeloma Multiple myeloma is a cancer that develops in the bone marrow, the spongy tissue found in the center of most bones. The bone marrow produces red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body; white blood cells, which form the body's defenses (immune system); and platelets, which are necessary for blood clotting.Multiple myeloma is characterized by abnormalities in plasma cells, a type of white blood cell. These abnormal cells multiply out of control, increasing from about one percent of cells in the bone marrow to the majority of bone marrow cells. The abnormal cells form tumors within the bone, causing bone pain and an increased risk of fractures. If the tumors interfere with nerves near the bones, numbness or weakness in the arms or legs can occur. Affected individuals may also experience a loss of bone tissue, particularly in the skull, spine, ribs, and pelvis. The deterioration of bone can result in an excess of calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia), which can lead to nausea and loss of appetite, excessive thirst, fatigue, muscle weakness, and confusion.The abnormal plasma cells in multiple myeloma produce proteins that impair the development of normal blood cells. As a result, affected individuals may have a reduced number of red blood cells (anemia), which can cause fatigue, weakness, and unusually pale skin (pallor); a low number of white blood cells (leukopenia), which can result in a weakened immune system and frequent infections such as pneumonia; and a reduced number of platelets (thrombocytopenia), which can lead to abnormal bleeding and bruising. Kidney problems can also occur in this disorder, caused by hypercalcemia or by toxic proteins produced by the abnormal plasma cells.People with multiple myeloma typically develop the disorder around age 65. Over time, affected individuals can develop life-threatening complications, but the rate at which this happens varies widely. Some affected individuals are diagnosed incidentally when tests are done for other purposes and do not experience symptoms for years.