What is multiple myeloma?

Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer that begins in the bone marrow and represents a cancer of the plasma cell, a particular type of blood cell. It is not a very common cancer; approximately 20,000 people are diagnosed with multiple myeloma each year in the United States (Source: LLS).

Some myelomas, called smoldering myelomas, do not have symptoms and may not need immediate treatment. If treatment is delayed, careful follow-up is important so that treatment can be started as soon as significant progression or symptoms become apparent. While multiple myeloma is not curable, treatment can often control disease progression and symptoms.

Multiple myeloma can interfere with production of new blood cells in the bone marrow, which can result in anemia, increased risk of infection, and easy bruising and bleeding. It also produces a substance that weakens bones and abnormal proteins that can cause kidney damage and other problems.

The cause of multiple myeloma is not known, but it is most common in people over the age of 50 and in African Americans.

Because multiple myeloma can decrease production of new blood cells, people who have it can have problems with bleeding and serious infections. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have uncontrolled bleeding, severe sweating, severe difficulty breathing, pale or blue lips, fast heart rate, confusion, or loss or change in level of consciousness.

Seek prompt medical care if you have experienced unexpected weight loss, persistent fever, frequent infections, night sweats, tiredness, or bone pain.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of multiple myeloma?

Multiple myeloma may produce a variety of symptoms or none at all.... Read more about multiple myelomasymptoms

CAUSES

What causes multiple myeloma?

The specific cause of multiple myeloma is not known, but there are a number of factors associated with its development. Multiple myeloma is more common among older adults, African Americans, and men.... Read more about multiple myelomacauses

TREATMENTS

How is multiple myeloma treated?

The goal of multiple myeloma treatment is to bring about a complete remission of the disease. Remission means that there is no longer any sign of the disease in the body, although it may recur or relapse later.... Read more about multiple myelomatreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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