Disease Treatments

Hematology & Oncology

Multiple Myeloma

Understanding Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell normally responsible for the production of antibodies. Plasma cells are found mainly in the bone marrow. When plasma cells become cancerous and grow out of control, it is called multiple myeloma. In most cases of myeloma also feature the production of a paraprotein, an abnormal antibody known by several different names including monoclonal immunoglobulin, monoclonal protein (M-protein), M-spike, or paraprotein. There are other types of plasma cell disorders which do not meet the criteria to be called active multiple myeloma which include monoclonal gammopathy of uncertain significance (MGUS), smoldering multiple myeloma, solitary plasmacytoma, or light chain amyloidosis. In multiple myeloma, the overgrowth of plasma cells can crowd out normal cells (bed blood cells, white blood cells, platelets). Myeloma cells interfere with bone strength, and may cause kidney problems. While patients with multiple myeloma have elevated or normal levels of antibodies, the antibodies do not function normally and may cause recurrent infections.

Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma

Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma include persistent or worsening fatigue due to anemia or reduced kidney function. A patient may also experience sudden onset of pain due to a broken bone in the spine, ribs, or elsewhere. Recurrent unexplained infections, such as pneumonia, sinus or urinary infection may also occur.

Diagnosing Multiple Myeloma

There is some family tendency to develop myeloma—approximately 3%–5% of myeloma diagnoses occur in a family member who has a close relative with a previous diagnosis of MGUS or myeloma. Multiple myeloma may also develop as a result of immune system suppression that could be caused by any number of factors.

Treating Multiple Myeloma

Treatment varies depending on the stage of the disease and may include watch and wait (MGUS, smoldering multiple myeloma), radiation (solitary plasmacytoma), chemotherapy in combination with immune modulating drugs, and stem cell transplant. Patients with recurrent infections may receive replacement therapy with immune globulin which provides functional antibodies to reduce infection risk.


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This content is not intended to substitute professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.