Myeloma, also called multiple myeloma, is a cancer of the plasma cells. Plasma cells are white blood cells that make antibodies that protect us from infection. In myeloma, the cells grow too much, crowding out normal cells in the bone marrow that make red blood cells, platelets, and other white blood cells.
- Multiple myeloma, the most common type of plasma cell tumor, develops in the bone marrow and can spread throughout the body.
- Solitary plasmacytoma is a single plasma cell tumor that develops in one part of the body, often in a bone.
- Extramedullary plasmacytoma is a plasma cell tumor that develops outside of the bones in soft tissue, such as the lung or throat.
What Causes Myeloma?
Scientists don’t understand why some people get myeloma and others don’t. Age is the most significant risk factor for developing myeloma. People younger than 45 years old rarely develop the disease. Men are more likely than women to develop myeloma, and myeloma is more than twice as common among Black people as among White people. In rare cases, exposure to X-rays or other kinds of ionizing radiation may be a risk factor for developing myeloma. Being overweight and having obesity are linked with a higher risk of getting multiple myeloma.
What Are the Symptoms of Myeloma?
Sometimes myeloma does not cause any symptoms. It may be found when a blood or urine test is done for another condition and a higher than normal level of protein is found. When more advanced, symptoms of myeloma may include bone pain, especially in the back or ribs; bones that break easily; fever for no known reason; frequent infections; bruising or bleeding easily; trouble breathing; weakness of the arms or legs; and feeling very tired.
These symptoms can also come from other conditions. If you have any of them, talk to your doctor.
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- Plasma Cell Neoplasms (Including Multiple Myeloma)external icon (National Cancer Institute)
- Multiple Myelomaexternal icon (Medline Plus)
- Multiple Myelomaexternal icon (American Cancer Society)
- Myelomaexternal icon (Leukemia & Lymphoma Society)
- What Is Multiple Myeloma?external icon (Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation)