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. Healthy plasma cells are like small factories that produce antibodies – and lots of them! In myeloma, there is an abnormal proliferation of plasma cells, clogging the circulation with excess antibodies. Multiple myeloma 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.

Common symptoms of multiple myeloma

Symptoms that can be experienced with multiple myeloma include:

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.

What are the risk factors for multiple myeloma?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing multiple myeloma. Not all people with risk factors will get multiple mye... Read more about multiple myelomacauses

TREATMENTS

How is multiple myeloma treated?

Goal of cancer treatment

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.

It is important to continue regular visits with your medical care team so that significant progression or relapse can be identified earl... Read more about multiple myelomatreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 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.

More Information on Cancer

This Article is Filed Under: Cancer