What Is Multiple Myeloma?

What Is Multiple Myeloma?

Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer. It develops in the plasma cells, which are found in the part of your bones called bone marrow.

Plasma cells are a type of white blood cells that produce antibodies to help your immune system fight infections.

The cancerous plasma cells produce abnormal proteins, or M proteins. A high level of M proteins in the blood may damage the kidneys and weaken the immune system. These cancerous cells replace normal cells with tumors, usually in the bone marrow. The increase in diseased cells can also cause bone damage, resulting in bone pain or fractures.


What Is Multiple Myeloma?

Healthy and Diseased Bone Marrow


Multiple Myeloma Symptoms

Multiple myeloma symptoms may vary by patient, though some patients with multiple myeloma have no symptoms at all.

The most common multiple myeloma symptoms may include:
  • Bone pain, weakness, or fractures
  • Low blood count
    • Anemia—low levels of red blood cells in the blood, which may cause weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and dizziness
    • Leukopenia—low levels of white blood cells, which can increase susceptibility to infections and weaken the immune system
  • Hypercalcemia—high levels of calcium in the blood, which can cause changes in urination, dehydration, increased thirst, loss of appetite, and confusion
  • Frequent infections
  • Kidney damage
  • Nervous system problems, including nerve damage, which causes numbness, pain, and weakness

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


Multiple Myeloma Diagnosis

The diagnosis of multiple myeloma is determined by a number of different tests. These include blood tests, urine tests, and a bone marrow biopsy. Imaging tests such as bone x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT) scans, and positron emission tomography (PET) scans may also be performed.