What is multiple myeloma?

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells. These white blood cells are found in the bone marrow and produce antibodies to help your immune system fight infections.

Cancerous plasma cells produce abnormal proteins called M proteins. A high level of M proteins can damage your kidneys and weaken your immune system. These cancerous cells also replace normal cells with tumors, usually in the bone marrow. This can cause bone damage and lead to bone pain or fractures.

Healthy and Diseased Bone Marrow

Multiple myeloma symptoms

The symptoms of multiple myeloma can vary from person to person. Some people with multiple myeloma have no symptoms at all.

According to the American Cancer Society, the most common multiple myeloma symptoms include:

  • Bone pain that can be in any bone but is most often in your back, hips, and skull
  • Bone weakness, either all over (osteoporosis) or where there is a bone tumor
  • Broken bones or fractures, sometimes from minor stress or injury
  • Anemia — low levels of red blood cells, which may cause weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and dizziness
  • Leukopenia — low levels of white blood cells, which can increase your risk of infections and weaken the immune system
  • Thrombocytopenia — low blood platelet counts may cause serious bleeding even with minor scrapes, cuts, or bruises

High levels of calcium in the blood, which can cause:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Dehydration
  • Kidney problems and even kidney failure
  • Severe constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion

Myeloma patients are much more likely to get infections. Pneumonia is a common and serious infection seen in myeloma patients.

Which can lead to:

  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Itching
  • Leg swelling

Which can cause:

  • Sudden severe back pain
  • Numbness, most often in the legs
  • Muscle weakness, most often in the legs

Talk with your healthcare team about any symptoms and questions you may have.