Myeloma is cancer of the plasma cells. Plasma cells
are white blood cells that produce disease- and infection-fighting
antibodies in your body. Myeloma cells prevent the normal production of
antibodies, leaving your body’s immune system weakened and susceptible
to infection. The multiplication of myeloma cells also interferes with
the normal production and function of red and white blood cells. An
abnormally high amount of these dysfunctional antibodies in the
bloodstream can cause kidney damage. Additionally, the myeloma cells
commonly produce substances that cause bone destruction, leading to
bone pain and/or fractures.
Myeloma cells are produced
in the bone marrow, the soft tissue inside your bones. Sometimes
myeloma cells will travel through your blood stream and collect in
other bones in your body. Because myeloma frequently occurs at many
sites in the bone marrow, it is often referred to as multiple myeloma.
Am I at Risk?
Signs and symptoms of myeloma include the following:
- Hypercalcemia (excessive calcium in the blood)
- Anemia (shortage or reduced function of red
- Renal damage (kidney failure)
- Susceptibility to infection
- Osteoporosis, bone pain, bone swelling or
- High protein levels in the blood and/or urine
- Weight loss
Myeloma occurs more frequently in the following
- Over the age of 50
- Exposed to radiation
- Work in petroleum-related industries
How Is Myeloma Treated?
If you have myeloma, there are many treatment options
available that slow the growth of the myeloma cells and help ease bone
pain, fatigue, and other symptoms associated with the disease. The type
of treatment depends on your health and the type and stage of myeloma.
Treatment options for myeloma include the following:
For some patients,
participating in a clinical trial provides access to experimental therapies. If you are
diagnosed with myeloma, talk with your doctor about whether joining a
clinical trial is right for you.
Is Myeloma Preventable?
Because doctors have yet to pinpoint what causes
myeloma, there is no certain way to prevent it. Be aware of the risks
and symptoms, especially if you have a family history of myeloma.
If you are experiencing
symptoms or are at risk for myeloma, talk with your doctor about
detection and treatment. Depending on your physical condition,
genetics, and medical history, you may be referred to a hematologist, a
doctor who specializes in blood conditions.
Where Can I Find More Information?
If you find that you are interested in
learning more about blood diseases and disorders, here are a few other
resources that may be of some help:
From Hematology, the ASH Education Program Book
The American Society of Hematology (ASH) Education Book, updated
yearly by experts in the field, is a collection of articles about the
current treatment options available to patients. The articles are
categorized here by disease type. If you are interested in learning
more about a particular blood disease, we encourage you to share and
discuss these articles with your doctor.
Clinical Studies Published in Blood
Search Blood, the official journal of ASH, for the
results of the latest blood research. While recent articles generally
require a subscriber login, patients interested in viewing an
access-controlled article in Blood may obtain a copy by
e-mailing a request to the Blood
This section includes a list of Web links to patient groups and
other organizations that provide information.
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