Multiple Myeloma
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells. Plasma cells are white blood cells that produce antibodies in your body. The cancerous plasma cells prevent the normal production of antibodies, weakening your body’s immune system and making it susceptible to infection.
Last Updated: February 21, 2024

Currently, the exact cause behind multiple myeloma remains unknown, but plasma cells most likely become cancerous due to certain mutations in their genetic information. Risk factors for multiple myeloma include: • Male sex • Increasing age, especially among those who are 65 years old or older • Having Gaucher’s disease • Having first degree relatives with myeloma • Being obese or overweight • Exposure to nuclear radiation • Working in agriculture or petroleum-related industries

During the early stages of the disease, individuals with multiple myeloma typically experience: • Persistent bone pain (most commonly in the back, but can also frequently involve the limbs or ribs) — this occurs because myeloma cells activate osteoclasts or the cells that absorb bone tissue • Fatigue When the disease worsens, symptoms may include: • Increasing fatigue • Bone fractures • Frequent infections • Nausea and vomiting • Constipation • Difficulty urinating or having frothy urine • Abnormal bleeding • Headache • Visual problems • Confusion • Pallor • Weight loss

To diagnose multiple myeloma, a doctor may order certain blood tests, especially since plasma cells are found in the blood. Since the bones are the most frequently affected parts of the body, a doctor may also order an X-ray or an MRI to identify areas of bone loss and to determine if there is involvement of the spine. To establish the diagnosis, a biopsy of the bone marrow is usually done. 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 a person’s general health and the type and stage of myeloma. Treatment options for myeloma include: • Chemotherapy • Immunomodulators (drugs that target specific areas of the immune system) • Medications to treat anemia • Radiation therapy • Stem cell transplant • Medications to improve bone health

There are currently no known ways to prevent multiple myeloma because its exact cause is yet to be determined.
Last Updated: February 21, 2024