Red blood cells carry oxygen
White blood cells fight infection
Platelets help your blood clot when you're bleeding
Plasma cells are a special type of white blood cell. Plasma cells make antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that are part of your body's natural defenses against infections and cancer. Antibodies find and attack foreign cells.
Bone marrow is in the center of your bones. Most of the cells in your blood are made in your bone marrow. The different blood cells all develop from what's called a stem cell.
What is multiple myeloma?
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells. One of your plasma cells multiplies out of control in your bone marrow and makes many copies of itself.
Multiple myeloma often causes bone pain, fractures, and kidney failure
The average age of people with multiple myeloma is about 65
Doctors do blood and urine tests and a bone marrow biopsy (remove a sample of the bone marrow to look at under a microscope) to diagnose multiple myeloma
Doctors usually treat the cancer with chemotherapy, corticosteroids, and sometimes a stem cell transplant
How does multiple myeloma cause problems?
The cancerous plasma cells:
Invade nearby healthy bone
Crowd out the normal cells in your bone marrow
Produce a lot of one kind of antibody
Bone invasion makes your bones hurt and more likely to break.
When the abnormal cells take over your bone marrow, you don't make enough normal blood cells. Without enough red blood cells, you get anemia Overview of Anemia Anemia is not having enough red blood cells or hemoglobin. Red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to all of your other organs. Hemoglobin is the substance inside your red blood cells that... read more (low blood count). Without enough healthy white cells, you're at risk for infections. Without enough platelets, you may have excessive bleeding.
The extra antibody made by the cancerous plasma cells is abnormal and doesn't help protect you from infection. However, it can clog up your kidneys and give you kidney failure.
What causes multiple myeloma?
Doctors don’t know what causes multiple myeloma, but they think it may:
Run in families
Sometimes happen from being around too much radiation or certain chemicals
What are the symptoms of multiple myeloma?
The most common symptom is:
Pain in your bones, usually your hips, spine, ribs, and skull
You may have other symptoms from complications:
Feeling tired and weak due to anemia (low blood count)
Infections that cause fever and chills
Unusual bruising and bleeding due to problems with your blood clotting
How can doctors tell if I have multiple myeloma?
Doctors will do:
Blood tests to measure different kinds of blood cells and antibodies
Urine tests to measure antibodies and other proteins made by the myeloma
If these tests show you might have multiple myeloma, doctors will do:
Bone marrow biopsy (remove a sample of the bone marrow to look at under a microscope)
X-rays of all the bones in your body (skeletal survey) to see which ones are affected by myeloma
How do doctors treat multiple myeloma?
Doctors will treat you to help slow the cancer’s growth and relieve your symptoms. They can’t cure multiple myeloma, but you may survive for a long time.
Doctors may give you:
Medicines to strengthen your bones
Sometimes doctors do a stem cell transplant Stem Cell Transplantation Stem cell transplantation is the removal of stem cells (undifferentiated cells) from a healthy person and their injection into someone who has a serious blood disorder. (See also Overview of... read more .
They take some healthy stem cells from you, or less often another person
Then they give you strong chemotherapy to wipe out your abnormal plasma cells
Then they give you back the healthy stem cells through a vein (IV)
These stem cells go to your bone marrow where they can produce normal blood cells
Doctors are doing fewer stem cell transplants because the newer drugs for multiple myeloma work fairly well.