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Multiple Myeloma

A detailed image showing the inside of a bone and comparing normal plasma cells and antibodies to abnormal plasma cells and antibodies.

Cancer that develops in plasma cells of bone marrow is Myeloma. Part of the body’s immune systems, the plasma cells produce antibodies and help to fight infection. When these cells become damaged and grow out of control, bone lesions develop. With the development of these abnormal cells, the other cells in the blood that produce both red and white blood cells as well as platelets cannot produce enough blood cells. The result is a lowered immunity, anemia, unusual or excessive bleeding, and suppression of the body’s ability to fight off infection.

Risk Factors:

Age: Multiple myeloma is most often diagnosed in people older than 65.

Sex: Men develop this disease at a slightly higher rate than women.

Race/ethnicity: The African American population develops multiple myeloma at more that double the rate of the white population.

Weight: Being overweight or obese puts a person at an increased risk for this disease.

Medical history: Individuals with certain plasma cell diseases have a higher incidence of developing multiple myeloma.

Signs & Symptoms:

  • Anemia

  • Drowsiness, Confusion or Fatigue

  • Muscle weakness

  • Nausea

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Unexplained bone pain

  • Fever or infections, not associated with another illness

  • Kidney damage or failure

  • Hypercalcemia (high level of calcium in the blood)

  • Blood clots caused by low platelets

  • Unusual nosebleeds, bleeding gums, bruising

Screening & Diagnostic Testing:

Some of the diagnostic procedures used when multiple myeloma is suspected are listed below. It will depend on the type of disease, as to which of these tests your oncologist will order to make a definitive diagnosis:

  • Physical Exam and Medical History

  • Biopsy

  • Laboratory tests (blood and urine)

  • Bone marrow biopsy

  • Imaging: X-Ray, CT Scan, MRI, PET-CT

  • Lung function testing

  • Molecular

Helpful Patient Resources:

We understand that receiving a cancer diagnosis can be a very scary and is an emotional time for the patient and their families. It is very important to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your oncologist. We highly recommend that if you do any research about your disease, that you do so only with reputable sources. For your convenience, we’ve listed some below.

National Cancer Institute

Plasma Cell Neoplasms (Including Multiple Myeloma)—Patient Version

American Cancer Society

Multiple Myeloma

National Comprehensive Cancer Network

Guidelines for Patients