Multiple myeloma

Multiple Myeloma

Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Abbreviation: MM.

Alternative Names: Multiple myelomatosis, myelomatosis multiplex.

Most blood cells develop from cells in the bone marrow called stem cells. Bone marrow is the soft material in the center of most bones. Stem cells mature into different types of blood cells. Each type has a special function:

    White blood cells (WBC) help fight infection. There are several types of WBCs. Plasma cells are white blood cells that make antibodies. Antibodies are part of the immune system. They work with other parts of the immune system to help protect the body from germs and other harmful substances. Each type of plasma cell makes a different antibody.

  • Red blood cells (RBC) carry oxygen to tissues throughout the body.

  • Platelets help form blood clots that control bleeding.

Each year nearly 15,000 people in US find out that they have MM.

MM is a cancer that begins in plasma cells. Myeloma begins when a plasma cell becomes abnormal. The abnormal cell divides to make copies of itself. The new cells divide again and again, making more and more abnormal cells. The abnormal plasma cells are myeloma cells. Myeloma cells make antibodies called M proteins.

No one knows the exact causes of MM. Doctors can seldom explain why one person develops this disease and another does not. However, MM is not contagious.

Recent studies have found that abnormalities of some oncogenes (such as c-Myc) develop early in the course of plasma cell tumors. Changes in other oncogenes (such as NRAS and KRAS) are more often found in myeloma after it has come back in the bone marrow after treatment, and changes in tumor suppressor genes (such as p53) are associated with spread to other organs.

Risk Factors:

    Age: Growing older increases the chance of developing MM. Most people with myeloma are diagnosed after age 65. This disease is rare in people younger than 40.

  • Sex: Men are slightly more likely to develop multiple myeloma than women.

  • Race: The risk of MM is highest among African-Americans and lowest among Asian-Americans. The reason for the difference between racial groups is not known.

  • History of MGUS (monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance) increases the risk of certain cancers, including MM.

  • High energy radiation such as atomic radiation.

  • Overweight people may be at higher risk.


    Stage 1: Low amount of myeloma.

  • Stage 2: Medium amount of myeloma.

  • Stage 3: High amount of myeloma.


Common symptoms include


  • Weight loss.

  • Weakness and numbness in limbs.

  • Bone pain (back and ribs).

  • Unexplained bone fractures.

  • Pneumonia.

  • Bladder and kidney infection.

  • Urinary tract infection.


Your doctor may ask about your personal and family medicalhistory and do a physical exam. In addition, your doctor will perform certain tests to confirm MM.

Tests include:

    Blood test (the lab checks for M protein, beta-2-microglobulin, and other proteins).

  • Urine tests (the lab checks for Bence Jones proteins,a type of M protein, in urine).

  • X-rays (x-rays is used to check for broken or thinning bones).

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

  • Computerized Tomography (CT).

  • Bone marrow examination.

  • Other biopsies such as fine needle biopsy and core needle biopsies also needed for certain MM.


If you have symptoms, your treatment will probably involve anticancer drugs (including steroids). Sometimes stem cell transplantation or radiation therapy is part of the treatment plan. Your doctor can describe your treatment choices and the expected results of each. You and your doctor can work together to develop a treatment plan that meets your needs.

Some people with MM have stem cell transplantation. A stem cell transplant allows a person to receive high doses of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both. The high doses destroy both myeloma cells and normal blood cells in the bone marrow. Later, the patient receives healthy stem cells through a flexible tube placed in a large vein in the neck or chest area. New blood cells develop from the transplanted stem cells.

Types of transplantation:

    Autologous stem cell transplantation.

  • Allogeneic stem cell transplantation.

  • Syngeneic stem cell transplantation.

Cancer treatment often damages healthy cells and tissues, unwanted side effects are common. Side effects depend mainly on the type and extent of the treatment. Side effects vary from person to person.

Decisions about how to treat or manage your cancer are always yours to make. If you want to use a non-standard treatment, learn all you can about the method and talk to your doctor about it. With good information and the support of your health care team, you may be able to safely use the methods that can help you while avoiding those that could be harmful.

Disclaimer:The above information is general information (informational purpose only, sometimes may not be accurate). The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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