Myeloma, also called multiple myeloma, is a cancer of the plasma cells.external icon 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.
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.
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)
- NCCN Guidelines for Patients: Multiple Myelomaexternal icon (National Comprehensive Cancer Network)